by Maria Bradford from Sweet Salone (Quadrille)
Photography: Yuki Sugiura
This is party food. There are 54 beautiful countries in Africa and one thing they all have in common is African culture. We are party people. Our culture encompasses a love of celebrations that combine food, fashion, music and dance. In my view, no party is complete without pepe chicken. Street vendors in Freetown grill this over hot charcoal throughout the night and it is perfect pre- or post-club. My Salone Fire Chilli Sauce, which is available to buy
on my website, is a perfect accompaniment in which fire and flavour dance together (or use chilli sauce of your choice).
SERVES 6 – 8
10–12 chicken thighs
FOR THE PEPE MARINADE
2 large onions (about 450g/1lb)
20g (¾oz) garlic (about 5 cloves)
25g (1oz) fresh ginger
50ml (2fl oz) lemon juice
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp West African Pepper Blend (see below)
2 stalks lemongrass
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
200g (7oz) unsalted peanut butter (use one without palm oil)
30g (1oz) tomato purée (tomato paste)
130g (4½oz) fresh tomatoes, chopped (about 1 medium tomato)
1 stock cube (use one without MSG) dissolved in 300ml (10½fl oz/1¼ cups plus 1 tbsp) hot water or 300ml
(10½fl oz/1¼ cups plus 1 tbsp) chicken, beef, fish or vegetable stock
2–3 scotch bonnet chillies, seeds left in, to taste
For the pepe marinade, put all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth and well combined.
Transfer to a saucepan and cook on medium heat for 10–15 minutes, stirring from time to time to prevent sticking, until the marinade has reduced and thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Let the marinade cool.
Put the chicken thighs in a large glass or ceramic bowl, pour over half the marinade (you can freeze the rest or keep it for up to 1 week covered in the fridge) and massage it well into the chicken. Cover and set aside to marinate in the fridge for 2–3 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/180ºC fan/400ºF/gas mark 6.
Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer in a baking tin. Roast for 35–40 minutes, basting occasionally, until cooked through (they are ready when the juices run clear
when pierced in the thickest part of the thigh with a skewer).
Note: In the warmer months, the thighs can be cooked on the barbecue. Baste them regularly and turn them frequently until they are cooked through, as above.
West African Pepper Blend
This aromatic and spicy blend is at the heart of many of my dishes.
2½ tsp grains of paradise (Nigel says you can substitute with equal parts of ground cardamom, ginger & black pepper)
2 tbsp black peppercorns
2 tbsp white peppercorns
1 tbsp cubeb pepper
3 tbsp allspice berries
Toast all the peppercorns in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant. Allow to cool then grind in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Store in an airtight jar.
It will stay fresh for up to 3 months.