From tacos to pasta, the spicy condiment livens up any dish
I am not the world’s best cook. Typically, I’m more of an assembler. When it’s my turn to make a meal, I opt for sandwiches piled high with lots of cheese and local produce, quesadillas that I toast up in the waffle iron, or bowls of rice that I made in the rice cooker topped with leftovers and whatever else happens to be in the pantry.
So it makes sense that the one thing I’ve recently mastered while holed up in my home for six months is easy to make and can be used on all of those things. Though only if you, like me, prefer your fare on the spicy side.
I discovered peri-peri sauce after I ordered bird’s eye chiles online for a different recipe. My original plan was to use these tiny, hot peppers to make Chicken 65 — an Indian appetizer that I often order out and wanted to recreate at home. I only needed three or four chiles for that recipe (which ended up being not so spectacular), but had to order the peppers in bulk, leaving me with roughly a pound of them on my hands.
So, as I do with everything else in my life, I turned to Google. When I typed “What to do with bird’s eye chiles?” peri-peri sauce was one of the first results to pop up.
Apparently, this tiny pepper, which packs a big punch, originated in South America and has become popular in Africa. It goes by many names, including bird’s eye, African Red Devil, piri piri (which means “pepper, pepper” in several African languages) and peri peri.
Peri-peri sauce is often used to make chicken and rice dishes, though I’ve managed to slather it on just about everything from black bean burritos and fish tacos to potato pancakes and pasta. I’d like to reiterate, though, that while this chili has a pleasant, fruity taste, it is hot. It’s the kind of heat that comes on strong and fades quickly, but it’s definitely made me sweat once or twice.
I cobbled together this recipe from about four or five I found, using ingredients I had on hand:
- 1 cup bird’s eye chiles with stems removed
- Four medium tomatoes (a couple pints of cherry tomatoes also works)
- Two large mild peppers — I’ve used red and orange bell peppers
- Two onions (I prefer red)
- Juice from three lemons
- Head of garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 1/3 cup of white vinegar and optional splash of high-quality balsamic vinegar
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- Black pepper to taste
Cut tomatoes in half and broil for about 12 minutes, remove skins.
Chop onions and mild peppers (also de-seed peppers).
Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend to desired consistency. I like my sauce a little chunky.
At this point, I reserve about a cup of the blended, non-cooked mixture as I enjoy the fresh taste. It lasts for two or three days in the fridge.
Simmer the rest (or all of it) over medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour into jars or bottles. (Old pickle or salad dressing jars work well.)
This makes quite a bit of sauce. I typically put half in the refrigerator and freeze half. It lasts in the fridge for about two weeks and frozen for several months.