Peri Peri Roast Chicken

Despite never having had a cheeky Nando's in the UK, I picked up a bottle of their PERi-PERi sauce from the shelf devoted to British groceries at my local store. It was delicious and balanced - a hint of citrus, loads of fragrant garlic, herbaceous, and bright - but it wasn't quite spicy enough for me. That's when I started doing some research on real peri peri sauce. Typically made with African bird's eye chili peppers and it originated in Portugal but it's equally popular in South Africa, Namibia, and other countries in Africa. The name 'peri peri' (also spelled piri piri) means 'pepper pepper' in Swahili.

I haven't made it to Portugal yet (it's on my list) so I can't speak to the authenticity of this recipe; I mean, it's already pretty inauthentic since I didn't use bird's eye chili peppers. Really, I just decided to improve on the Nando's sauce I enjoy.
Ingredients [serves 4]:
2 lbs. chicken thighs (or preferred cut of chicken)
2 to 3 red habanero peppers*
½ bell pepper
3 cloves garlic
¼ red onion
1 tablespoons lemon zest
juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
8 to 10 sprigs cilantro
3 sprigs oregano, stripped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil

tomato salad
1 lb. heirloom tomatoes, chopped
¼ red onion, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped oregano
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
juice of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons pepitas

*Technically, peri peri sauce is made with African bird's eye chili peppers but guess what? These are not available stateside. I've substituted in red habaneros because I love heat. Other alternatives are cayenne peppers (which are slightly milder than peri peri peppers), red jalapenos, Thai chilis, serrano, or tabasco peppers. Use a pepper with a heat level you are comfortable with.

To start, make the peri peri sauce. Combine hot peppers, bell pepper, cilantro, onion, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, fresh oregano, red wine vinegar, paprika, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a food processor and whizz up until smooth.
Smother the chicken in marinade in either a zip-top bag or sealable container. Pop in the fridge and leave to marinate overnight.
Place the chicken in a baking dish and roast in the oven at 400F for about 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 165F. (The cooking time will depend on the cut of meat you use.)
While the chicken is cooking, I suggest making a vibrant, beautiful tomato salad to serve as a side dish.
Chop up some tomatoes - I love using multicolored heirloom cherry tomatoes - and add to a bowl along with some thinly sliced red onion and chopped oregano. Dress generously with lots of lemon juice, salt, and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss together and then garnish with some pepitas. That's the salad; done. It's so simple but really delicious.
Once the chicken is done, pop into the broiler for a quick minute or two, just to promote browning.
Garnish with some cilantro leaves and then serve.
Serve hot with the tomato salad, some delicious cumin rice, green beans, extra peri peri sauce, and whatever else you like.
The chicken is incredibly tender, thanks to the acid in the marinade, and super spicy and flavorful. It goes perfectly with the cumin rice and the cooling tomatoes offer a bit of relief from the heat. This is a great weeknight meal, as it's a cinch to whip up; marinate the chicken the night before and everything comes together pretty easily. I also think this is a great substitute for the traditional Sunday roast.
Here are the recipe pages: