If you have ever been to Zimbabwe or South Africa and you did not live in a cave while you were there, then you will know what a braai is (if you don't, check out this Wikipedia page that covers this).
Because of the amazing weather and high temperatures that most of Southern Africa has all year round, braais are common way of socialising and a way of life for many. Southern African people spend a lot of time outdoors and so it is only natural that eating like this is so popular.
Where does peri peri chicken come from?
The name comes from the Swahili language which was used within central and eastern Africa as a way for people to communicate amongst themselves as there are literally hundreds of different languages spoken in that region. Pili pili is the name that was originally given to the African bird's eye chilli within the Mozambican community. When this spread to the surrounding areas, most notably South Africa, people began to call it peri peri (the name we know it by today)
Mozambique has a rich cultural mix of local people, Indians (mainly from Goa) and Portuguese. This fusion of culture brought about very rich and spicy food dishes. Chillies are used in many of the meals and peri peri chicken is one the better known meals that spread across and have become a favourite in Southern Africa.
The Process of making the marinade.
There are many variations of this out there, but this is the way that our family made the peri peri marinade:
2 to 6 African birds-eye red chillies (depending on heat required)
Juice of one lemon (take out the pips but leave the pulp in)
1/2 tsp of chilli powder
1/2 tsp med curry powder
1 tsp paprika powder
1/2 cup oil
5 cloves garlic
1/4 cup tomato sauce (same as tomato ketchup)
Salt and pepper
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
50 mL wine vinegar (red wine vinegar is best)
Blend all ingredients until smooth and refrigerate until needed. You can see how the different cultures have had their say in this recipe.
Some points to note
You may not be able to get the African bird's eye chilli where you are. You can use the chillies that you find in you areas or shops. You would be better off going with the hotter chillies and just using less (this is what we did depending on who had joined us for food) I would always advise starting off with a little less chilli and adding more as opposed to the other way round.
Preparing the chicken for the braai
I find that it is best to do this the night before you are planning to have the BBQ (Braai).
Many people like to cut up the chicken into pieces. Personally, I like my chickens whole. I like to spatchcock my chicken and then once cleaned, add it to a deep set container and cover with the marinade that you have just made. You can do this the on the day of the BBQ but I think that it tastes better when it has been left over night.
If you want to get really fancy you can stab the chicken in the meaty bits like the breast and thighs as this will help get some of the marinade in there. Make sure that you cover the chicken when you have it in the fridge.
Cooking the chicken
It is time for the BBQ, you have a fire going and everything is ready for your feast. In Zimbabwe it is the men that cook the meat and the woman that make the salads and sadza or rice. Having a Braai (BBQ) has always been one of the best ways to spend a sunny afternoon. For red meats I love sadza but for this meal I like rice, if you have a rice cooker you can find out how to cook different types of rice from this article (http://www.twokitchenjunkies.com/rice-cooker-frequently-asked-questions/)
There are a few things you need to make this meal work:
The temperature of the BBQ - chicken needs to be cooked for a long time slowly for it to cook all the way through especially if you have whole chicken. Zimbabwean BBQ's tend to be large so that they hold a lot more charcoal or wood, this way you can move the coals around making hot spots (for steaks, etc. and cooler spots to cook the chicken.
My second trick is to cheat a little bit, I like to microwave the chicken just before I put it on the fire. This starts the cooking process from the inside and gives you a bit of an advantage as it is already starting to cook when you add it to the fire.
It is important to note that cooking it too long in the microwave will potentially ruin the chicken so don't do this for too long. I do it for a few minutes on high and then check to see how it is getting on. If you are unsure leave this stage out and leave the chicken on the fire for bit longer.
When cooking the chicken, try not to let the marinade burn, it is good to burn a little as this adds to the taste. Turn the chicken regularly and then baste it with the marinade that is left in the container. Remember to leave it cooking for a little bit after the last basting as the raw chicken has been in there.
Making sure that the chicken is ready
One of the hardest things when cooking chicken on the BBQ is knowing when it is ready. When we are cooking the chicken there are two basic ways to measure this. Some people like to cut the chicken to see if it ready this method is quite easy of the chicken is cut up in pieces. Get a knife and cut down to the bone, you can tell if the meat is cooked, if it pulls away from the bone easily then it is ready.
If you have spatchcocked you chicken then the best way to check if the chicken is cooked is to check the between the leg and the rest of the chicken. Cut the skin and pull the leg slightly. If there is a lot of resistance then the chicken is not cooked. If the meat started coming away then the chicken is cooked.
There are other ways of doing this, these are just mine, and they have served me well. This was the way that we did this in Zimbabwe. There are other methods, like the thermometer, but I have never used that. I prefer the old fashioned way.
Once the chicken is ready you can serve it up.
Some final tips:
Salad will always go well with peri peri chicken that has been cooked this way.
You will need to experiment with the heat a bit. I love mine hot others like less heat.
Always make more - It is better to have leftovers then to go hungry, plus cold chicken from the BBQ always tastes brilliant. I like to cut up the meat and add some mayonnaise - boom the best filler for a sandwich.
The slower that you can cook the chicken the better.
If you do not have a BBQ then you can cook this in the oven - it still tastes awesome. }?>
Originally from Zimbabwe, Sebastian now lives in the UK where he spends some of his spare time in the kitchen cooking and experimenting with food and the gadgets that you find in the kitchen. You can visit his site http://www.twokitchenjunkies.com/ covering his take on cookware and kitchen gadgets that interest him.
Peri Peri Chicken
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