Zulu chicken with red-hot chillies

If you were to Google “Chicken peri-peri” you would get 10 million hits for something the Americans insist on calling “African Chicken”. The way out of this muddling of a great East Coast tradition by the global cooking bandits is to vote with your skottel and make this magnificent meal right now. Assuming, of course, that like most red-blooded South Africans, chillies in huge quantities are your idea of good time.
Issue date 16 January 2009

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If you were to Google “Chicken peri-peri” you would get 10 million hits for something the Americans insist on calling “African Chicken”. The way out of this muddling of a great East Coast tradition by the global cooking bandits is to vote with your skottel and make this magnificent meal right now. Assuming, of course, that like most red-blooded South Africans, chillies in huge quantities are your idea of good time.

To make this veld fire on a plate, you will need:
1 chicken
1kg (not a misprint!) red chillies
400ml lemon juice
3 bay leaves
400ml extra-virgin olive oil
400ml wine vinegar
60g garlic
30g coarse salt

Instead of THE STANDARD SUPERMARKET broiler, your writer decided to venture into traditional chicken territory and bought something labelled a “Zulu Hen.” This was one hell of a chicken – not only was it made of huge components, but it came complete with add-ons like the head, plus beak, plus comb and both feet! Real, scaly feet with claws. And there was more. Instead of the standard giblet pack, I got a complete set of spares including the trachea, three embryonic eggs and a heart the size of my thumb.
But all this exotica came at a price. The meat was astonishingly different in flavour and required the full use of every single tooth on both jaws. Not a quick meal in any sense of the word.
The big thing in this recipe is the basting sauce. It’s nothing less than high-octane peri-peri, a magnificent sauce that owes its origin to Afro-Portuguese cuisine. The quantities used are huge but it lasts almost forever sealed and refrigerated. Oil and vinegar are natural preservatives. But if this is more sauce than you want, reduce the quantities but maintain proportions.
Red chillies give the sauce its glorious colour while fresh lemons taste best. Make the sauce by peeling the garlic, de-stemming the chillies and dumping the whole lot in a food processor. Rev up to the red line and only stop when the sauce is macerated to your liking. Chunky is good, smooth is better.
This meal requires high heat and focused attention. There’s lots of smoke so it lends itself best to a skottel. Baste the chicken pieces from time to time with the sauce and turn the pieces every five minutes or so. The chicken is done when the inner juices run clear. Rare chicken is the road to hell. Don’t go there.
Serve this dish with huge potatoes baked with the skin on. Nothing does this with less trouble and greater speed than a microwave. Cut the baked potatoes longitudinally and drench with the smouldering juices from the skottel.
What a blast, in every possible sense of the word! – David Basckin     |fw

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