“This is the most succulent chicken you’ll ever cook on a barbecue. The brining to add flavour is clever – who could resist a bath in beer, wine and brandy! This was cooked on a revolving barbecue cage, which helps to keep the moisture inside the golden chicken. The piri-piri is a quick blend and then the sauce is cooked on the coals, and the pilaf rice is a simple easy accompaniment. Jose Silva worked as head chef at Guillaume at Bennelong for many years before taking over a Portuguese bakery, Sweet Belem, and opening a relaxed eatery. His uncle in Portugal gave him the secrets of his marinade.” Maeve O’Meara, Food Safari Fire






Skill level

Average: 3.4 (252 votes)


  • 1.5 kg (3 lb 5 oz) whole chicken, butterflied



  • lemons, juiced
  • ½ lemon, sliced
  • 7 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 6 fresh bay leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • 200 ml (7 fl oz) beer
  • 250 ml (8½ fl oz/1 cup) dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp whisky or brandy
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil


Piri-piri sauce

  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 French shallots
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 10 medium red chillies, whole
  • 2 cm (¾ in) piece fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp red-wine vinegar
  • 100 ml (3½ fl oz) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika


Pilaf rice

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ brown onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 200 g (7 oz/1 cup) long-grain white rice
  • 375 ml (12½ fl oz/1½ cups) hot chicken stock
  • handful of parsley sprigs

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Marinating time 12-24 hours

With a sharp knife, cut slits all over the chicken to allow the brine to penetrate. Place in a deep dish and pour over the lemon juice. Add the lemon slices, garlic, bay leaves, paprika and sea salt. Pour over the beer, wine, whisky or brandy and oil, and mix well. Rub the brine into the chicken, cover and marinate overnight (at least 12 hours but preferably 24), turning every hour or so.

When the chicken is ready to cook, preheat the coals on the spit until glowing – about 20 minutes, depending on the charcoal.

Lift the chicken from the brine, removing any garlic or bay leaves that have stuck to it. Reserve the brine to baste the chicken. Place the chicken flat in a barbecue cage and clamp firmly closed. Put on the spit and cook for approximately 40–50 minutes over hot coals. Baste with the remaining marinade every 10 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, make the piri-piri sauce. Blend all the ingredients together until smooth. Pour into a terracotta pot (or cast-iron pot) and cook over coals for 10–15 minutes, making sure you stir to emulsify – this will prevent it splitting. It will thicken slightly but what you’re looking for is that the garlic and shallots are cooked.

To make the pilaf rice, heat a terracotta pot (or cast-iron pot) over the coals.

Add the olive oil. Sauté the onion and garlic until softened and translucent, stirring. Add the rice and toast briefly until coated in the oil.

Add the stock and parsley. Cover and move the pot to the cooler part of the coals. Cook for approximately 12 minutes until the stock has evaporated and the rice is tender. Remove from the heat and leave to rest, covered, for 5 minutes before serving. You should have fluffy rice with a crust.

Towards the end of the chicken’s cooking time, brush some of the piri-piri sauce over the top. Continue to cook for another minute or so until caramelised.

Serve the piri-piri chicken with the pilaf rice. A fresh green salad and chips are other good accompaniments.



• The pilaf rice can also be cooked in a wood-fired oven.


Recipe from Food Safari Fire by Maeve O'Meara (Hardie Grant, hbk, $55).  Photography by Kaily Koutsogiannis.


Food Safari Fire starts Thursday 7 January 2016 at 8pm on SBS. Visit the program page for recipes, videos and more.