Saturday, 10 May 2008

portuguese chicken

Australians are obsessed with Portuguese chicken.

It all started in 1986 when Antonio Cerqueria, a Portuguese migrant, opened his charcoal chicken shop on Bondi Beach and spawned Oporto. This was only 3 years after the first Nando’s in South Africa.

Ironically in Portugal and former colonies, the dish is known as Galinha à African or African chicken since it uses African inspired ingredients, while we call it Portuguese chicken since it was the Portuguese that brought it to the world.

So what is it? How about delectable morsels of chicken marinated in fiery piri-piri chillies, spices and garlic and then chargrilled and basted in sauce. It’s just too good!

There are as many recipes for this chicken as there are families in Portugal, but the one below is my variation on a recipe from Peter Evans, a fairly well-known Aussie chef whose only crime was to name his daughter Chilli.

Perhaps this reveals his love affair with the spicy red fruits and should portend an excellent, spicy chicken recipe for the adventurous.

But why not two for one Portuguese recipes?

I’ll even chuck in Sopa de Coentros, a warm coriander soup that I discovered on Home Gourmet, a blog by Portuguese foodie Suzana. The soup recipe, one of Suzana’s grandmother’s, is pure comfort food.

here’s our entrée . . .

Sopa de Coentros (Coriander Soup)

Anna’s version of
Suzana’s grandmother’s recipe. Serves 6.


3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
300ml vegetable stock
300ml water
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons cilantro roots, chopped
3 boiled eggs, chopped
3 tablespoons, chopped fresh cilantro
1 chorizo sausage, very thinly sliced and fried


1. In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onion and the garlic and sweat until soft, about 3-5 minutes.

2. Add the potatoes and cilantro root and stir well to prevent sticking.

3. Add the stock. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.

5. Add cilantro leaves, stir until wilted then remove from heat.

6. Blend in a food processor until smooth.

7. Ladle into bowls and garnish with boiled egg, fresh cilantro and chorizo.

Suzana includes a turnip, which I would have too if I hadn’t forgotten to buy it! I suppose you could use small salami instead of chorizo too.

and now for the main course . . .

Galinha à Africana (Portuguese Chicken)

Anna’s version of
Peter Evans' recipe. Serves 2.


2 char-grilled capsicums (bought from the deli section)
1-2 dried piri-piri chillies, crumbled
1 large, long red chilli, deseeded & chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
½ teaspoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon smoky paprika
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 boneless chicken thighs
Olive oil
Lemon wedges, to serve
Fresh coriander leaves, to serve


1. To make the piri piri sauce, put the peppers, dried and fresh chillies, red wine vinegar, garlic, paprika and coriander into a food processor. Add enough olive oil to make a loose paste

2. Spread the piri piri over the chicken and marinate overnight.

3. Set the BBQ or griddle pan to hot and cook chicken both sides until crispy and brown.

4. While cooking, heat the remaining marinade in a small saucepan to use as additional sauce.

5. Sprinkle with chopped fresh coriander and serve with lemon wedges, extra sauce and crusty bread.

Since I’ve done coriander to death, this Weekend Herb Blogging theme ingredient is the piri-piri chilli. It has other names too, such as the peri-peri (South Africa), peli-peli, African birdseye, African devil, African red devil and malagueta (Brazil), but I'm told in Portugal it's called piri-piri.

The cultivar seems to have originated in Portugal’s former African colony of Mozambique, where it is used in almost everything from sauces and marinades to roasts.

This cultivar is extremely spicy, ranking 175,000 on the Scoville scale, just under the Scotch bonnet that I covered a few weeks ago. If you’re not sure what that ranking means, as a comparison the jalepeno only ranks a maximum of 8,000. So it’s a spicy little devil, that’s for sure.

This week's WHB host is Laurie from Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska. Doesn't just the name of her blog intrigue you enough, without the added persuasion of the week's herb posts? Well how about her recipe for carpaccio with wild greens like dandelion? Yum!



  1. This chicken is the business! I made Churrasco chicken and the recipe came from Food Safari...yes, Down Under!

  2. Mmmmm. This chicken could easily become an obsession at my house - it sounds magnificent. It's also a perfect entry for WHB - thanks for sending it!

  3. peter - do you get the food safari series in canada or did you just find the recipe on the website? it's such a great show and every episode includes one or two of our best chefs talking about their cultural backgrounds. for greek food you can't beat george calombaris.
    laurie - i've made this chicken so many times since the first time. even did a batch for a bbq with friends and all the boys just loved it.

  4. Both these recipes sound just brilliant. Love the sound of the spicy chicken marinade, although I have to confess I'm slightly a wimp when it comes to spicy food.

  5. Anna, we do get Food Safari in Canada. It is one of the best shows that Food Network Canada airs.
    I can't wait to try your chicken, I may have to sub some chilies - I don't recognize some of them but I am sure it will be delish.


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