African birds’ eye chillies are also known as piri piri chillies. ‘Piri piri’ is the Swahili word for ‘chilli chilli’, so they’re ‘chilli chilli chillies’! With a name like that, it’s unsurprising that these tiny peppers are far hotter than their size would seem to allow. Birds’ eye chillies are ideal for infusing oil or vinegar to make fiery dressings. Or grind the dried chillies with coarse sea or rock salt to make a hot seasoning.

Piri piri marinades usually include fresh mild red chillies for colour, as well as the tiny piri piri chilli. We’ve opted for simplicity in this recipe, using dried piri piri alone, to make it a larder-friendly dish and an easy recipe for a crowd.

This recipe looks beautiful presented on Bordallo Pinheiro’s Fantasia platter!

Piri Piri Roast Chicken Legs
serves 4

100ml olive oil
100ml of lemon juice (from two large lemons)
20 or 2.3g bird’s eye chilli peppers
1 tsp dried oregano
4 large cloves minced garlic
2 tsp fine salt
4 chicken legs

  1. Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, bird’s eye chilli peppers and dried oregano in a small pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and pour into a blender. Add the minced garlic and fine salt. Blend until smooth and leave to cool completely.
  3. Next prepare chicken legs. To help the marinade penetrate the chicken, cut two long slashes into each chicken leg: one across the thigh and one across the drumstick.
  4. Place the chicken in a plastic bag and pour the marinade. Rub in well, seal and place in fridge for at least 1 hour to marinate.
  5. Lay the chicken pieces on a baking tray and pour over any remaining marinade.
  6. Roast in a preheated oven at 180°C for 30 minutes until cooked through, and then crisp up under a hot grill for a further 5 minutes.
  7. Serve with a crisp green salad and jacket potato, chips or potato salad.