Monday, 20 June 2011

Ben's Peri-Peri Chicken in the Weber


We had the pleasure of Ben's cooking the week before when we were invited to help him celebrate his birthday on an extraordinarily wet Sunday afternoon. His menu was amazing so we decided to respectfully re-create a few of the dishes for an evening with friends visiting from Australia. It was all a bit last minute and in the middle of a hectic working week.

I'd had many phone conversations with Ben for his advice on methods and ingredients, and my wife and I settled on the following menu for our friends Jean and Ken:


- Prosciutto rolls with peach, mozzarella, basil and mint


- Ben's peri-peri chicken in the Weber
- Warm salad of french beans, artichoke hearts, asparagus and wild rice
- Ratatouille


- Rosewater panna cotta with pink champagne and strawberry jelly and crystalised rose petals

Our meal was a great success but the dessert stood out by a mile. It was astounding. Unique, creative and carefully considered in every way. My version of Ben's peri-peri however was affected by not having the right ingredients at hand. I only had hot chilli powder (instead of mild) and used too much paprika to compensate. It still tasted great but would not have met Ben's standards I'm sure. The recipe below is how Ben makes it and was taught to him by his Dad in South Aftica.

Makes 12 rolls


- 12 slices of prosciutto or parma ham
- 2-3 peaches, peeled and cut into 12 strips
- 1 ball of mozzarella, cut into strips
- 12 whole basil leaves
- 12 whole large mint leaves (or more smaller ones)


Carefully roll the fillings inside the prosciutto. Serve at room temperature, garnished with a few extra herbs and freshly ground black pepper.

Serves 4


- 1 whole chicken, spatchcocked
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp of smoked paprika
- 4 tbsp mild chilli powder
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 handful of fresh parsly, finely chopped
- 1 handful of fresh oregano, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh taragon finely chopped.
- juice of 1/2 lemon for the marinade
- Fresh lemon wedges to serve with


Marinate the chicken the night before and leave it in the fridge. To make the marinade, add the paprika and chilli powder to the olive oil, tasting all the time for 'chilli hotness'. Add the garlic, herbs and lemon juice to the marinade, prick the chicken all over with a skewer, and put the chicken and marinade in a sealed plastic bag (or bowl with clingfilm) in the fridge. The longer the better.

To cook the chicken, prepare two medium charcoal fires in the Weber, sit the chicken in a baking dish in the centre and cook the chicken slowly with the lid on and all vents open for about 40 minutes. This needs to be a gentle cook or the chicken will dry out to much. From time to time, spoon the marinade over the chicken as it is cooking.

To finish the chicken, remove it from the dish and grill it directly over the (by now fairly gentle) coals. Turn it freqently to prevent it from burning. Ten minutes or so in total should be plenty. Cut the chicken into portions, making sure everyone gets a share of the breast and finish it off with the lemon wedges.

I can't wait to do it again, but hopefully with more time to get the spices just right.

Serves 4

This is served just slightly warm and all of the ingredients can be pre-prepared before the final assembly.


- 1 pk of fresh asparagus spears
- 1 pk of fine green beans
- 1 small jar of artichoke hearts in oil
- 1/2 cup of wild black rice
- Juice of one lime
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lime cut into wedges


First cook the wild rice following the instructions on the pack (takes up to an hour) then rinse with cold water in a sieve to prevent it overcooking. Meanwhile, Blanch the beans and asparagus in slightly salted boiling water for a minute or two and then run them under cold water also. Put the cooled vegetables in a bowl with the lime juice, olive oil and garlic to marinate.

To serve, quickly chargrill the beans and asparagus on the barbeque (or toss quickly in a hot wok) until they are hot, but still firm. Toss the hot vegetables with the rice, marinade and artichokes and garnish with extra lime wedges.


Using the juices from the peri-peri baking dish, I simply added a finely chopped onion, courgette and red pepper to the same dish to soak up the spicy flavours. Then a tin of chopped tomatoes was added and the whole thing cooked was quickly over a fairly high heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. By this time my fire was too low, so I transferred it to a pan and finished it over the gas hob.

Makes 4 in ramekins

Not only does it sound amazing, it tastes amazing and is beautiful to look at. This is a result of Ben's current rosewater fettish and it is a truly imaginative and successful creation. You won't have tasted anything like it before and once you do you will be wanting it again. And again...


For the pink champagne jelly:

- 150ml of pink champagne (or medium rose)
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- Gelatin leaves or powder
- 4-6 fresh strawberries trimmed and cut into wedges

For the panna cotta:

- 300ml double cream
- 300ml milk
- 1 tbsp rosewater
- 80g caster sugar
- 1 large fresh vanilla pod

For the crystalized rose petals:

- 8 rose petals
- 1 egg white, gently beaten
- Caster sugar

- Fresh mint leaves and extra strawberries to garnish


You need to allow plenty of time for this, the finished dessert needs at least 6 hours in fridge to set before serving, and the rose petals need time to harden in a dry warm place.

First make the jelly, by warming up the wine and caster sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add the gelatin (check the packet for the amount needed to set 150ml) and make sure it is completely dissolved. The jelly needs to cool down (but not set) before it is added to the ramekins.

Place the strawberry wedges into the bottom of the ramekins and pour over the jelly mixture. It should take up no more than the first 1.5 - 2cm of the dish, then put the ramekins in the fridge to set. The jelly needs to be completely set before the top layer of panna cotta is added.

To make the panna cotta, gently heat the cream, milk, seeds from the vanilla pod and the sugar in a saucepan, add the rosewater (and taste it!), then the gelatin (again, check the packet) until fully dissolved. Allow to cool (but not set) before pouring it over the set jelly. Put them back in the fridge to set.

The crystalized rose petals are made by first trimming out the thick stalk, brushing them with egg white and covering them with loads of caster sugar on both sides. The petals then need to be laid out and put somewhere dry and warm until they become crispy. It was a sunny day so I laid mine out on a plate on the table in the conservatory

To serve, turn the dessert out onto a plate or bowl (a bit of hot water on the outside of the dish will help to release it) and garnish with the rose petals, extra strawberries and some fresh mint leaves. It will impress.

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