August 17, 2016

Nando's Peri-Peri Chicken

I love London, I really do. HOWEVER, aside from afternoon tea at the Ritz, I did not much care for English food. Don't hate me! Even when I partook of the celebrated fish and chips, I could not eat more than a few bites of the bland, sorry creatures arranged limply on my plate. So, while I was in the UK, I mostly ate curry. 

Until my last night in London when I finally succumbed to curiosity and entered a Nando's. I had been passing by this Caribbean-looking, festive restaurant every day on way back and forth from my hotel and dismissed it as a "chain" - which it is. But after the first bite of their   peri-peri chicken, I was hooked! - and kicking myself for not having discovered it sooner.  Tangy, spicy, garlicky - it had all the bold flavor and excitement lacking in typical English fare. Because it's not English. Apparently it is a South African chain with Portuguese influences. Unfortunately, there is no Nando's where I live - I would have to fly cross-country to visit one. So, I will have to be content with the DIY route. 

Of course, the first dish I cooked when I got home was a peri-peri chicken with spicy sauce.  This recipe comes quite close to the real thing. It will at least tide me over until my next trip to the UK...

The key is the sauce and marinating the chicken in it overnight, at least for maximum flavor.

Nando's Peri-Peri Chicken and Sauce

2 large red bell peppers
1 large red onion
1 head of garlic
½ cup lemon juice
¼ cup red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
zest of one lemon, finely grated
10 small red Thai chilis, roughly chopped (more to taste for hotter sauce)
1½ tsp smoked paprika (or plain paprika)
1½ tsp dried oregano
1½ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 bay leaves

To finish the sauce (when cooked)
¼ cup lemon juice
zest of one lemon, finely minced
¼ cup red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil


1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with olive oil.
2. Cut the bell peppers and onion in half.  Take out the seeds from the bell peppers.  Place the bell pepper and onion halves, as well as the Thai chilis on the baking sheet. Sprinkle some sea salt and drizzle olive oil on top.  Chop the top of the head of garlic.  Place the head of garlic on a small sheet of tinfoil. Drizzle some olive oil on top and then wrap the tinfoil tightly around the garlic.  Place it on the baking sheet alongside the peppers and onion.  Roast for 15 minutes.
3. Chop the peppers and onions and add them to a food processor or blender. You can us an immersion blender if that is all you have on hand, just take the time to get the ingredients well pureed.
4. Add the garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, lemon zest, red Thai chilis, smoked paprika, oregano, salt and pepper to the food processor with the grilled onions and peppers and puree until smooth.
5. Transfer the sauce to a medium saucepan, add the bay leaves and simmer for 20 minutes.
6. Let the sauce cool to warm. Remove the bay leaves then return the sauce to the food processor again.
7. Add the additional lemon juice, red wine vinegar and lemon zest. Puree for another few minutes until very smooth. Slowly add in the olive oil in a thin stream as the processor is running.

To make Peri Peri Chicken, brush a little of the sauce onto all sides of the chicken you are using. You can use bone in, skin on chicken or boneless skinless chicken. Place the chicken pieces in a glass dish and cover with plastic wrap.Let the chicken marinate for several hours or overnight.
Grill over low heat on a glass grill until fully cooked, brushing on additional sauce in the last five to ten minutes of cook time. Serve with extra sauce for dipping at the table.

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