The grilling season is upon us. I’m excited. The summer stretches out in front of me like one long BBQ sizzling with stuffed squid, beer-can duck, tikka, grilled pineapple salsa, sardines, smoky baba and of course, plenty of jerk (top tips for great jerk here).
Portuguese piri piri chicken is something I’ve been meaning to experiment with for a while. We’ve survived the winter by ordering from Na Pura in Nunhead. The chicken there has a good flavour and is cooked well but I do wish they’d use better quality birds. They also take forever to cook them. After a batch of wings and a chicken or two I’ve hammered down my own recipe and the time has come to say that I’m sorry, Na Pura, but your services are no longer required.
My piri piri sauce is a combination of shed-loads of fierce little chillies, oregano, paprika, garlic, vinegar, oil and sugar; the sweet/sharp balance makes it perfect for the BBQ and BBQ’d it must be because char is very important for this recipe. The skin should be blackened in places. The vinegar in the marinade tenderises the meat keeping it juicy and moist inside. The other important thing to remember is to keep a pot of marinade and a brush to hand when grilling; brush the bird liberally and often. When she’s done, give her a final coat before serving with wedges of lemon and a big salad. And a beer.
It’s nice to serve a pot of the sauce at the table with a little brush, like Restaurante Bonjardim in Lisbon.
Piri Piri Chicken
(makes enough for 2 chickens)
30 piri piri or other small red chillies (obviously you may need to adjust the amount according to the chillies you have available)
3 teaspoons dried oregano (fresh would be lovely but it’s quite hard to find around here)
2 level tablespoons paprika
150ml red wine vinegar
200ml olive oil
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
Chicken (see instructions on spatchcocking at the end)
Whack everything in a blender until smooth. Pour half of the marinade over your meat, cover and refrigerate overnight. Turn the bird around in the marinade every now and then. When it comes to grilling your bird/s, get the coals white hot then move them to the edges of the BBQ and put your chicken in the middle. Brush regularly with the marinade. Cook until the skin is blackened in places and the bird is cooked through (about 20-25 mins per side for a spatchcocked chicken).
Brush again with the marinade before serving.
If you’re cooking a whole bird on the BBQ, spatchcock (butterfly) it to ensure it cooks fast and evenly. To do this, place the bird breast-side down on a board, with the tail towards you. Using scissors, cut along each side of the backbone to remove it (this requires a little welly as you’re cutting through the ribs but it’s not that difficult). Turn the bird over and use the heel of your hand to push down on the breastbone so that it’s all one thickness. Use skewers to secure the legs and keep the shape of the chicken by pushing them through the thigh and then diagonally through the breast. A bird will take 15-20 minutes per side. If you want to see someone doing it there are some good vids on youtube.