Portugal – Piri Piri Chicken


Many years before Ronaldo was bamboozling the opposition with mazy runs and infinite step-overs there was a player who is considered as one of the greatest players to ever play the game; Eusébio da Silva Ferreira, or Eusébio for short. He was a player that was way ahead of his time; very athletic (he could run a sub 11-second 100m), an amazing dribbler that could easily beat defenders, and he had a devastating prowess in front of goal. In fact, his goal scoring record for Benfica, where he played a majority of his career, was 473 goals in 440 competitive games – a phenomenal achievement and statistic.

The only time he competed in the World Cup was in 1966 in England. He won the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer and is remembered for rescuing Portugal when it was 3-0 down against North Korea by scoring 4 goals which led to a 5-3 victory. He was also an incredible sport, often congratulating opposition goalkeepers for wonderful saves against him. Portugal was eventually beaten 2-1 by England in the semi-final, with Eusébio scoring Portugal’s goal. He was devastated at the end and was consoled by both Portuguese and English players as he left the field in tears.

Eusébio passed away earlier this year at the age of 71, and such was the respect and adoration for this national hero that the Portuguese government declared 3 days of national mourning.

Unfortunately, Portugal suffered an early exit in Brasil, the devastating opening 4-0 loss to Germany making it difficult to come back from. Often, with Ronaldo in the side the air of expectation is higher than it really should be. However, with Portugal being ranked #3 in the world before the World Cup started I did expect a bit more of a fight.



I remember the best octopus I have ever had was in a restaurant just outside of Lisbon in Portugal. It was a whole one that exuded garlic and was incredibly tender, and I distinctly remember it being presented with its tentacles hugging some saffron rice. I also remember eating the synonymous street food piri piri chicken on the streets of Lisbon. It was tender barbecued chicken with a fiery coating of chilli oil and chilli (piri piri). It was some of the simplest food I have eaten but the wonder of it has stayed with me since; and we are talking a few years ago.

It’s the middle of winter here in Melbourne but the lure and temptation of barbecued piri piri chicken on the day that I am writing and cooking about Portugal was too much to resist. I feel piri piri chicken has somewhat been bastardised by certain fast food chains around the world, so today was about bringing some good old pzazz back in to this Portuguese classic. We’ve got bags of fire with some bird’s-eye chillies and some deep intense flavour with roasted bay leaves, a little oregano and paprika and a good aged red wine vinegar. And of course to add authenticity it needs to be done over a barbecue with the fat from the chicken dripping to create pockets of fire that add a great charcoal flavour and texture to the marinated chicken skin. Surely, some of the ultimate football watching food.


Serves: 4   |   Preparation: 15 minutes + 2 hours marinating   |   Cooking Time: 40 minutes



1.6kg Whole chicken |
10 Bird’s-eye chillies | Tops removed.
10 Fresh bay leaves |
1 tsp. Garlic powder |
1 tsp. Dried oregano |
1 tsp. Sea salt |
2 tsp. Sweet paprika |
50ml Red wine vinegar | I used an aged variety.
100ml Grapeseed oil | Or other non-flavoured oil


How to:

Preheat an oven to 180°C (360°F).

To make the marinade: put the chillies and bay leaves on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and roughly chop. Put the garlic powder, oregano, salt, paprika, vinegar, oil and roasted chilli and bay leaves in a saucepan and simmer for 3 minutes. Allow the marinade to cool and then blitz in a mini-food processor (or using a hand blender) to a purée.

Spatchcock the chicken: to do this cut along one side of the back bone and repeat for the other side to remove the backbone. Place the chicken breast side up and with the palm of your hand gentle press down to flatten the chicken. Skewer the chicken through one breast and the opposite thigh, and then repeat with another skewer for the other side. Rub half the marinade into the whole of the chicken and then seal the chicken in a plastic bag and leave in the fridge to marinate for 2 hours.

Turn on a barbecue and heat to medium. Cook the chicken on the barbecue flipping frequently to ensure even cooking. Baste the chicken with the other half of the marinade during cooking. The bird should be ready in about half an hour. You can cut through one breast to the middle of the chicken to see of it is cooked the whole way through.

Cut the chicken in to portions and serve with chips and a light salad.