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Preparing the nation’s favourite dish at home begins with tracking down that all-important chilli
The cooking method
The barbecue is ideal for this purpose, but you can also get excellent results in the oven. I prefer to finish them off in a hot griddle pan rather than under the grill, which I find fiddly and more work to clean up.
Perfect piri piri chicken
Serve with chips and lemon wedges if you want to go Portuguese, though it’s also very nice indeed with rice to soak up the extra sauce. Or, in Mendes’s style, freshly fried potato crisps – I have it on reliable authority that a bag from the supermarket also does the trick.
Prep 15 min, plus marinating
Cook 40 min
4 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick), skin on, bone in
For the marinade
Juice of ½ lemon
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tsp flaky salt
For the piri piri sauce
2-4 red African or Thai bird’s eye chillies, to taste
2 plump garlic cloves, peeled
Juice of 1 lemon
1½ tsp flaky salt
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
50ml olive oil
1 tbsp port or 1 tsp brown sugar (optional)
Whisk together the lemon juice and garlic for the marinade. Put the chicken in a roasting tin just big enough to hold it, and pour the garlicky juice all over it, turning to ensure it’s well coated. Sprinkle with the salt, cover and leave at room temperature (unless it’s a very hot day) for an hour.
Meanwhile, roughly chop two chillies (gloves are advisable) and the garlic, add the lemon juice and salt, and whizz to a puree (or mash well in a mortar). Whisk in the paprika and oil. Taste, adding more chilli if you think it needs it, and the port or sugar if you’d prefer it a bit sweeter.
Prepare the barbecue, if using. Once it’s at cooking temperature, grill the chicken for 35 minutes with the lid on, then check. If it’s almost done, then brush with piri piri and cook, lid off, for about another 10 minutes, until cooked through.
Alternatively, heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas 6 and roast the chicken for about 35 minutes, until cooked through, basting with its juices occasionally. Heat a griddle pan to medium hot, brush the chicken with piri piri, and grill for a few minutes on each side, until just starting to char.
Either way, serve hot with the extra sauce on the side.