Piri piri, pili pili or peri peri means bird’s eye chili in Mozambique. The dish called piri piri chicken refers to grilled (or roasted) chicken marinated in a sauce flavored generously with bird’s eye chilies. Many say it is a fusion of Mozambican and Portuguese cuisines, Mozambique having been ruled by the Portuguese for over 400 years.
There are so many ways to prepare the marinade for piri piri chicken but the basic ingredients, aside from bird’s eye chilis, are oil (olive oil or butter), garlic and salt. Vinegar or lemon juice is often added although it is optional. This is my recipe for piri piri chicken.
- 1 whole chicken about 1.5 kg., butterflied
- 4 to 5 bird’s eye chilis
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon rock salt
- juice of one lemon or lime
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil (doesn’t have to be extra virgin), or just enough to puree the chilis
In an oil-free frying pan, dry fry the chilis for a few minutes. Cool then roughly chop, discarding the stems.
While the chilis cool, peel and grate the garlic.
Put the garlic, chilis, cumin, paprika and salt in a blender or food processor. Pour in the olive oil and lemon juice. Process until smooth. You now have your marinade.
(Note that a mortar and pestle will do the job too. Just grind the spices with a tablespoonful of olive oil until you have a paste then just stir in the rest of the olive oil and the lemon juice.)
Rub the marinade on every surface of the chicken. Place in a covered container and leave in the fridge to absorb the flavors for several hours.
Grill the chicken over live coals (or in a convection oven) until the skins are browned and lightly charred and the meat is cooked through. To test for doneness, pierce the thickest part of the meat (the thigh or the breast) and if the juices run clear, the chicken is done.
While the chicken cooks, pour the leftover marinade in a small sauce pan and boil for about two minutes.
To serve, place the grilled chicken on a plate. Pour the boiled marinade over it and serve at once with rice or flat bread.