Zingy, spicy and oh so red! This chicken has big bold flavours to match it’s big bold colour. It’s great grilled on a barbecue and served with a side of roasted corn. Best of all, it’s yummy even as a leftover.
I came across a piri piri chicken recipe six years ago in an Australian recipe book. I thought it sounded close enough to the words “peri peri” that Nando’s uses to make me rush into making it. I made it and thought it was close enough to the red hot version of Nando’s chicken. However, as the base of the marinade were bird’s eye chillis (small red peppers), the heat was a bit too much for me. Moreover, the list of ingredients was long, making me even more reluctant to cook this version again.
So that recipe and the making of piri piri sauce got shelved for a while.
Later on, I found another piri piri chicken recipe from one of my favourite food bloggers. The nice thing about it is that the list of ingredients was short and it became, for a while, a mainstay in our kitchen repertoire. Unfortunately, it was all based on a misunderstanding—as I made and remade this recipe, I came to believe that this wonderful recipe had no chilli in it at all—just the big brother of chilis, a red capsicum or bell pepper. I guess it was because during that time, our toddler was under a year old so I thought it was a great recipe to use as she liked eating little bits of chicken but I probably went and unconsciously removed the chilli and remembered it as having no chilli in it ever. But, there was also no salt in that recipe (that was in the original) so it was the perfect simple and easy to make chicken for the era.
Of course, with no salt and no chilli we finally found it too bland.
Nevertheless, I really liked the idea of using a red capsicum as the base of the marinade, rather than the small red chillies from the first recipe. So starting from that ingredient, I built this recipe up. Soon, I added back a bit of salt. Later, a bit of paprika for extra spiciness, the chilli came back… but in a different form—instead of chopped up piri-piri, I used two kinds of chilli flakes: the chilli flakes the kind of which you typically find in an Aussie grocery (also known as “crushed red pepper“), and the pepper flakes the kind of which you typically find in a Korean grocery (also known as “고추가루” or “gochugaru”).
This final recipe, therefore, was the result of a lot of tinkering until the list of ingredients became long again. I do not apologise for this—it has been a while since I was intimidated by long lists of ingredients and, as I came to tinker with this recipe, I found that long ingredients were really nothing to fear… especially since it’s basically “put it all in and blitz it to smithereens”.
Also, my goals have changed: the continued tinkering was no longer about trying to duplicate the Nando’s taste. I developed, revised and redeveloped this more so I can come up with a nice balanced flavour which everyone in the family will enjoy. Because of that, I don’t think I can refer to to this recipe as being “piri-piri”, “peri-peri” or “pili pili” any longer.
Finally, two weeks ago, I served this the final recipe to my family. My sister has since joined our merry little bunch—she chose to take her post graduate studies here and we decided that having an extra food guinea pig had its advantages. All around the table, people were solemnly chewing until I could stand it no longer. “Well?” I asked. “What do you think?”
My husband looked at me pointedly, looking very displeased. “You didn’t use enough of… of… something here. It’s an incomplete dish.” I was as crushed as the red chilli flakes I lovingly put in that dish. He kept chewing. At length, I demanded “Okay, wise guy… what’s missing?”
He said, “It needs more chicken… and everything else!” My sister went with the same tack, “He’s right. I think doubling the chicken… and everything else would do the trick.”
My husband, the jig now up, was now grinning ear to ear. “Yes. As you can see, there’s not enough for me to taste and now there’s nothing left. Not enough!” he said, dramatically shaking his head. “Not enough!”
My young daughter, through a mouth stuffed full of chicken, merely ordered me to cut more of it up.
I knew then, it was time to stop tinkering and just serve this recipe to you.
Like I said, I dare not call this recipe ‘Piri Piri Chicken’ as I do not know enough about how the Portuguese make their sauce or cook their chicken. So I’ve decided to call it Red Capsicum Chicken. I love the deep red colour of the marinade and how the paprika and chilli just add even more layers of red to it. I think it’s great matched with corn on the cob visually and also taste wise.
Have you ever tried to remake food you’ve eaten from a fast food chain?