A Short Treatise on Piri Piri

Let’s clear up one thing about how to spell this, now famous, Portuguese colonial hot pepper, sauce and marinade. It is not spelt peri peri (take note Nando’s, Tesco, M&S and some others); it is spelt piri piri. Because as any fule kno, it is pronounced in English and Portuguese “pirry-pirry” not “perry-perry”. There are countless bottled insults in piri piri’s name. Piri piri has no place in, or near, burgers or fried chicken. Nice to get that off my chest.

When, in the 16C, the Portuguese navigated themselves around Africa (to find the source of the Venetian spice trade from India and further east, which they then comprehensively monopolised, and so becoming the richest country in Europe for the next hundred years) they encountered these fierce little chillies of the same name in what became the colonies of Angola and Moçambique; and it is a little known fact that it was the Portuguese who introduced Indians to chillies.

True piri piri peppers are of the brightest scarlet, are no more than 2cm long, and are cone-shaped and chubby; they are very hot but have a unique deep flavour. Normally used fresh rather than dried but when split, salted and stored in a jar for some months they develop the most profound flavour which is how I like to use them for a table sauce and for adding zip to soups and the like. They are really easy to find in Portuguese markets during the summer so I’m always returning with a kg or two, but as they are really difficult to find at any time in London, a good approximation would be to use a mix (an equal count of each) of small red “bird’s eye chillies and long dark red chillies that are in all supermarkets.

- David

Piri Piri Marinade and Table Sauce Recipes

Piri Piri Marinade

for grilled* prawns, squid and chicken

*always better over charcoal than gas

  • 20 piri piri peppers
  • Either 150g. massa de pimentão – a paste made from semi-dried sweet peppers much used in Portuguese cooking – or the flesh of 5 well-grilled sweet peppers
  • 5 large garlic cloves
  • 5 fresh bay leaves
  • 200ml. olive oil
  • 25ml. wine vinegar
  • 25ml. sea salt

Blend all of the above very well.

Marinade for 12-24 hours before cooking. If using (ideally huge Indian Ocean tiger) prawns, keep their heads and shells on - but they should be snipped down their backs with scissors to remove the unpleasant digestive tract within.

A basting sauce can be made by diluting some of the marinade with more oil and vinegar.

Store refrigerated in a clean jar, covered with a layer of olive oil.



Piri Piri Table Sauce

Use latex gloves throughout!

  • 20-30 piri piri peppers
  • 75ml. coarse sea salt

Destalk the peppers and split them along their length, but keep them connected at the top. Layer into a clean storage jar with the salt. Leave them in the closed jar in a cupboard for one to six months, giving them a shake every now and then. They will produce a lot of juice

Blend the piri piris very well with the salt and juices and the following:

  • 5 bay leaves
  • 500ml. white wine vinegar

Push all through a small gauge sieve and bottle – something like old Worcestershire sauce bottles. Keeps for years.