This peri peri sauce is a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals book, which I would highly recommend. While some of the recipes from the 30 Minute Meals series are available on the Channel 4 website (including the peri peri chicken), the book gives you the full story, plus shiny photographs that you can look at in all the free time you suddenly have when dinner only takes half an hour. I’ve made a few of the recipes from it since Christmas and they’ve all been excellent, though at least one of them took longer than 30 minutes – that’s a story for another day. I have so far only done the main course and sides, none of the puddings. You could say I’m working up to it. I’d like to do a proper review of the book soon, once I’ve made a few more, so I’ll leave it at that for now; first impressions are very good.
For a whole roast chicken, you will of course need more than thirty minutes, but I decided to make the sauce from the book again because it tasted proper nice, as Jamie himself might say. I only made one change to the recipe as written, and that was to use half a teaspoon of umami paste in place of Worcestershire sauce. I went to the cupboard to look out said sauce and I didn’t have any – I was surprised. I’m not sure who I thought would have bought it and put it in the cupboard, since I obviously hadn’t, but it’s one of those things you expect to be there. At least, I do. I know I *used* to have some… Though when I think about it that may have been in one of the flats I used to live in, and I’ve been in this one for almost three years… Anyway, I’ve been getting along OK without it, and umami paste has many of the same ingredients, like anchovies, tomato and magic, in a more concentrated form, so I thought it’d be a good substitute.
I looked up peri peri (or piri piri) just now, to see where it came from, and I was surprised to learn that it’s the name of an African chili, not just the name of this kind of sauce. So really this sauce isn’t the real deal, since it uses birds eye chilis – if you can get the proper ones, I say do it. I’m not sure how widely available they are in the UK but I’m going to start keeping an eye out.
The sauce is so simple to make, you just put everything in a blender and, well, blend until it forms a paste. You can pop over to the C4 website if you want to make it – the sauce is really bright and powerful, with fresh basil, lemon zest, chilis and garlic all mixing together to make your nose tingle and mouth water. I absolutely love the smell of fresh basil, just thinking about it cheers me up. I also love the smell of fresh thyme, which is used in this recipe, too. I still can’t decide which one I love more. I don’t want to choose. Don’t get me started on lemon thyme, it will only confuse me. It smells so much like lemons! But what if basil and thyme find out I have another favourite herb? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
I applied the peri peri sauce (which I made quite thick by using a judiciously small glug of water where the recipe calls for a normal glug of water) to a free range chicken, rubbing it all over the skin and then, since I knew I’d only be taking the skin off again before I ate it, getting in *under* the skin to flavour the meat more. I also added some of the sauce to the chicken cavity, along with two squeezed up lemon halves. If you’re flavouring a chicken with lemon juice, you may as well use the skins to add more flavour while it’s roasting, it seems only sensible. I also added a bunch of thyme to the cavity and laid a few stems on and around the chicken to perfume it.
If you’re a bit squeamish about meat I can see how reading those sentences may have you reaching for some peppermint tea and a cold compress. You can stick with pre-prepared bits of chicken, or I’m sure peri peri tofu would be fine, and wouldn’t involve words like ‘cavity’ and the requirement to get your hand in between the skin and flesh of a previously living thing. On the other hand (the one that’s not wedged inside a chicken), you soon get used to preparing meat and either stop minding or forget what you’re doing, depending on how you choose to deal with it. Plus chicken is generally more delicious than tofu. I wish it wasn’t true, but it is.
I roasted the chicken as per the package instructions – it took almost two hours, uncovered for the first half hour then wrapped in tinfoil for the rest of the time. If you want crispy chicken skin, do this the other way round and leave uncovered for the final half hour. I’m still not a fan. IT’S SKIN. This, I am squeamish about.
The smell of roasting chicken is a thing of wonder, even more so when you add the smell of thyme to it – within ten minutes, my flat was a wonderfully poultry-perfumed palace. I had a late dinner that night, but it was worth the wait.
These photos aren’t great – it’s difficult to get good quality snaps in the winter, when it’s dark before I go out to work and when I get home at night, but I usually manage a bit better than this. I was obviously delirious with hunger, it’s probably some kind of minor miracle that I managed any photos at all.