Peri Peri Chicken Pasta

Like many people my age I grew up in a house with a spice rack. From memory it was one of those that looked like a bookshelf stolen from a large dolls’ house. Each tier lined with a row of perfectly matching glass jars. Most of which had never been opened and were probably long past their sell-by dates. Not because we didn’t use spices, I should add. Rather the racks came pre-loaded with jars and most of them were not things you’d use on a regular basis. At least not in Dorset in the 1980s.

We’re fortunate enough to have a pull-out larder cupboard in our new kitchen, with a whole shelf dedicated to herb and spice storage. As I get to pick what goes into it (and because they’re kept in the dark) there are no jars full of faded, beige powder. Everything in there gets used on a regular basis. If it doesn’t then it gets relegated to the recycling bin. Well, I say “everything” in the knowledge that there is one little pot of spice that I’ve rarely touched: Peri Peri that my parents brought back from Portugal.

I’m not afraid of spicy food but this Peri Peri mix is certainly not for the faint of heart. It’s intended to be added to olive oil, to create a punchy table sauce. After a single taste I have to admit that, to my shame, it went straight to the back of the cupboard. It has sat there in the dark ever since. It’s not just spicy it’s borderline hostile. A flavour destroyer rather than a flavour enhancer. You could probably weaponise this peri peri – if you were so minded.

Anyway… I rediscovered this bright red powder a few weeks ago whilst tidying up the spice shelf. I had a choice: try and cook something with it or admit defeat and throw it away? As you can imagine from this recipe for Peri Peri Chicken Pasta I went for the former.

I knew that I would have to use it sparingly and try and balance its heat with something cool and soothing. As such, there’s a generous amount of double cream here that rules this out as a low fat dinner. Along with some fresh tomatoes, spinach and basil for both freshness and flavour. The chicken is marinated in the spice mix for an hour before cooking, which I think is an essential step to really bring out the flavour. This step could be shortened if you’re really sensitive to chilli heat, though I do think you should just go for it.

As I’ve said before Michael is not a fan of spicy food. It’s all pain and no pleasure for him, sadly. However, I clearly got the balance right here as he completely cleared his plate. The peri peri heat is there but the cream quickly tempers it. You get a lovely warmth rather than a painful burn after each mouthful.

I’m glad I kept the peri peri now – it’s just a shame that it took me a couple of years to find a use for it. That said, now I know I can control its heat I won’t be waiting so long to use it again.



Peri Peri Chicken Pasta

You may find this to be rather moreish, thanks to the balance of spicy peri peri chilli and rich double cream that coats every piece of chicken and pasta.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chicken, Pasta
Servings: 2
Calories: 930kcal

Ingredients

For the Chicken

  • 1 tsp Ground Peri Peri chillies see note
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika Pimentón
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Dried Oregano
  • ½ tsp Sea Salt
  • ½ tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 tsp Lime Juice
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Chicken Breasts cut into bite-sized chunks

For the Pasta

  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion peeled and finely chopped
  • ½ tsp Ground Peri Peri chillies see note
  • 2 cloves Garlic peeled and crushed
  • 2 Tomatoes deseeded and sliced
  • 50 g Fresh Spinach shredded
  • 8 Basil Leaves shredded
  • 100 ml Double Cream
  • 150 g Dried Pasta
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese optional

Instructions

  • Start by marinating the chicken. Mix together the spices, lime juice and olive oil to form a thick paste. Put the chicken into a bowl, then pour over the spice mix and stir until well coated. Cover and allow the flavours to develop in the fridge for an hour.
  • When ready to cook heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the chicken and stir-fry for 5 minutes until cooked through and slightly charred on the edges. Remove from the pan and put to one side.
  • Add a splash more oil, then add the chopped onion and peri peri. Stir to coat in the spicy oil mixture, then reduce the heat and cook the onion for 10 minutes until tender.
  • Add the garlic to the pan, then cook for a further minute or so until fragrant. Add in the tomatoes and cook over a low heat for a further minute or two.
  • Meanwhile bring a large pan of water to the boil, then cook the pasta according to the instructions on the pack.
  • Add the shredded spinach and basil to the onion and tomato mixture and stir well. When wilted return the cooked chicken to the pan and pour in the double cream. Bring to a simmer then allow to bubble away for a couple of minutes as the pasta cooks.
  • Drain the pasta, reserving a splash of the cooking water to add to the creamy sauce. Tip the pasta into the frying pan, then stir until well coated with the sauce. Serve immediately, with an optional sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese.

Notes

As I’ve mentioned before my parents used to spend much of the year in Portugal and would always come back to the UK with culinary gifts. One of these is a little pot of ground peri peri chillies that rarely comes out of the cupboard as it is almost aggressively spicy. In this dish it gives a wonderful warmth that’s tempered by the generous amount of cream. You could use crushed chillies, ground to a powder in a pestle and mortar, or a shop-bought peri peri mix – but in both cases may need to adjust the amount to suit your tolerance for capsaicin.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION

Estimated Values per Serving
Energy3,895kJ
931kcal
Fat40g
of which Saturates20g
Carbohydrates69g
of which Sugars7g
Fibre5g
Protein80g
Sodium892mg
Note: Nutritional information shown is per serving of the above recipe. Any side dishes or garnishes shown in photos are not included in these values, unless they are specifically listed as part of the recipe.

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