My Quest For Peri-fection: Your Guide To Perfect Home-made Nando’s-style Peri Bites

Perfectly crunchy and crispy Nando's style Peri-bites

Perfectly crunchy and crispy Nando’s style Peri-bites

Obsession is a dangerous thing to have and once you get something in your head, it is impossible to let go of. For me, recreating restaurant recipes at home is one such obsession and at times, it drives me to the edge of insanity.

Nando’s Peri-bites has been an OCD of mine ever since I first tried it some five years back. These are deep-fried green chilies stuffed with a succulent, cheesy chicken filling that just melts in your mouth (and sets it ablaze). A few years back, I successfully created a Peri-bites recipe that tasted much better than the original; there were two problems I consistently faced:

  • the coating kept falling off
  • the filling kept oozing out

Not all chilies were affected, though, but a sizeable percentage (around 60-70%) had one or both of these flaws. Therefore, I kept on going back to Nando’s for my Peri-bites fix – my fellow Peri-junkies should be able to relate to this. On one of my more recent visits to Nando’s, I found several issues with my appetizer:

  • lack of chicken in the filling
  • the taste was a bit ‘off’
  • the coating wasn’t as crisp as it should be

With a broken heart and a huge disappointment (that would put Mt. Everest to shame), I put my culinary skills to the test and gave the recipe one more try. This recipe that I’m about to share is an absolute 110% improvement on the Nando’s original. I promise you will not be disappointed with the results.

Prep Time: 30 mins

Serves: 3-4 people

Ingredients

  • 1 medium egg
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¾ tablespoon corn flour
  • ¾ tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups bread crumbs (for dry coat)
  • ½ chicken breast (1-inch strips)
  • 2 teaspoon peri-peri sauce for cooking (hot or wild flavor)
  • 1 tablespoon peri-peri sauce for mixing in
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoon grated mozzarella
  • 1 tablespoon grated cheddar
  • 1 tablespoon cream cheese
  • 8-10 green chilies (approx. 3-4 inches in length – use banana peppers for a milder flavor)
  • Canola oil (for deep-frying)

Method

  1. In a sauce pan, put a teaspoon of oil and add the chicken breast
  2. Mix in the peri-peri sauce once the chicken is tender and turn off the heat after cooking for a minute; let the chicken cool
  3. After the chicken has cooled, add in cream cheese, mayonnaise, cheddar, mozzarella, and peri-peri sauce; mix well
  4. To fill the chilies, make a T-shaped incision from the base of the chili (as shown in the picture below) and take out the seeds
  5. Take about 1-2 teaspoon of the chicken filling (make sure there are chicken chunks in each portion) and stuff it gently into the chili; do not over stuff as the incision may not close and the filling may come out during frying
  6. In a bowl, mix the egg, milk, corn flour and all-purpose flour
  7. Dip each stuffed chili into the egg mix and roll it into the bread-crumbs; repeat this step twice for each chili
  8. Put a pan with oil on medium heat for deep-frying
  9. Gently drop each chili into the oil; try not to touch them for a minute to let the coating stick to the chili
  10. Cook them for a few more minutes till the chilies are crisp and golden
  11. Serve them immediately with a peri-peri sauce of your liking!

So what are you waiting for? Get started on a batch right away; it’s sure to knock your socks off and set your head steamin’. I hope you enjoy this recipe; comments would be appreciated!

 

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The Incision – ‘T’ marks the spot

 

A Lemony Twist On Fresa Colada

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What a typical Londoner might call a bright sunny day, we, the residents of Dubai, call a well-deserved break from the blistering summer sun that beats (mercilessly) down upon us for a good six months each year (five-and-a-half if we’re lucky). I personally love the Dubai winter, especially because it brings with it, a plethora of fresh seasonal fruits from the Middle eastern region, the most noteworthy of which are the strawberries flown in daily from Egypt.

I couldn’t resist myself from buying a kilogram of these tantalizing berries when I last went grocery shopping. Needless to say, we got tired of eating all these strawberries pretty soon, so I thought of making a refreshing drink out of it. I added some coconut water and lemon syrup to compliment the sweet and sour berries and the drink turned out better than expected.

Here’s the recipe if you want to replicate it at home. It serves two people.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups fresh coconut water (I use yellow Srilankan coconuts as they are a bit on the sweet side)
  • 6-8 medium strawberries
  • 2 tablespoon lemon syrup (alternately, you can use 1 tsp lemon juice and 2 tsp honey)
  • For garnish:
    • 2 medium strawberries (coarsely chopped)
    • 3-4 mint leaves
    • 5-6 ice cubes

Method

  1. Wash the strawberries and remove the leafy part; add them to a blender
  2. Add coconut water and lemon syrup the blender and mix well
  3. Pour the juice into mason jars and add in some ice
  4. Top the jars with chopped strawberries and mint
  5. Serve immediately

Hope you enjoy this drink as much as I did making it. I’d appreciate your comments if you do try this at home!

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Bananas for Bananas: My Obsession With Spicy Banana Chips

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Cravings are a natural part of life, primarily influenced by the feel-good sensation you have after you’ve consumed the coveted item to your heart’s content (or your stomach’s). But let me ask you a question: has your craving ever turned into an obsession – like Gollum’s my-precious-one-ring obsession? Just say it out loud; you know you want to!

My fixation doesn’t end with having this dish over and over again. I have to recreate it within the confines of my own kitchen with the ingredients that I happen to own so that I can have it whenever and wherever – no strings attached (apologies for this borderline OCD rant). It takes me days, sometimes even months, to come up with a recipe that’s 80 to 90 percent close to its original counterpart. The results are satisfying, to say the least; what’s even better is being able to share that recipe with the rest of the world. But the cherry on the top is when someone actually tries the recipe and gives me feedback on how it tastes and/or can be improved.

A brief list of some recent obsessions along with their current statuses follows:

Spicy Banana Chips are the latest addition to the list above. Ever since I first tried this snack in 2007, I’ve been head-over-heels in love with them. Originally from India (Kerala, to be precise), these delightfully crispy chips are a perfect mid-afternoon snack to help during those hunger pangs. The traditional Indian spicy chips are fried in coconut oil, topped with salt, pepper, and powdered curry leaves. I did find a tastier version more suited to my Karachiite palate at a bakery but the bakery doesn’t have them anymore; ergo, the obsession.

I decided to give the recipe a try at home and luckily, got it right the very first time; having said that,it wasn’t until the third try that I finally got a version tastier than any banana-chip variation I had ever tried before. So before you drool all over your favourite t-shirt, let me dive straight into the recipe.

Prep Time: 35-50 minutes (depending on how many batches you have to fry them in)

Servings: 5-6 (yields approx. 200 grams)

Serving Size: 30-40 grams

Ingredients

  • 1 kg raw bananas or plantains (characterized by their tough exterior)
  • ½ teaspoon chat masala (can be found at any Pakistani grocery store)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon red chili powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon citric acid powder (or granules)
  • ⅛ teaspoon turmeric powder for seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder for soaking the bananas
  • 2 cups water
  • Oil for deep frying

Method

  1. Take a bowl and prepare the seasoning; mix the chat masala, salt, red chilli powder, black pepper powder, turmeric powder and citric acid powder – in case you have citric acid granules, you may need a mortar and pestle to powder it
  2. Prepare a water and turmeric solution and soak the peeled bananas in it for 5 minutes; peeling raw bananas can be a bit tricky so here’s a video that shows you how to do it
  3. In a deep pan, add canola oil for deep frying and heat it on a medium flame
  4. Once the oil is hot, make 2-3 mm thick slices of the banana using a slicer directly over the pan; please be very careful while doing this
  5. Let the chips sit for 45 seconds before tossing and turning them around; keep moving them till they are nice and golden to get an even color on both sides
  6. When these turn golden brown (it takes around 9-12 minutes), take them out in a bowl and liberally sprinkle the seasoning; toss them around for an even coat and then spread them on a paper towel
  7. Serve after they have cooled down somewhat
  8. Keep in a zip-lock bag for up to 5 days (good luck if they last that long) to preserve freshness

Now don’t just sit there and watch; go get some raw bananas and get slicing!

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Jammin’ Juice Lollies

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Who doesn’t love ice lollies? It’s easy to buy one from a supermarket freezer if you’re OK feeding artificial content (refined sugars, colours and flavours) to your kids. I prefer making one of these insanely delicious coolers, filling the lolly moulds with whatever’s left over. Three hours and a thousand are-they-done-yets later, I have happy smiling kids devouring refreshing/hygienic lollies. These especially come in handy during the summer months and are ideal as an after-school treat for kids.

You can try experimenting with other fruit juice combinations; some that work well together include:

  • Orange and mango
  • Orange and carrot
  • Pineapple and coconut
  • Lemon and honey
  • Mint and lime
  • Apple and pomegranate
  • Raspberry, strawberry and blueberry
  • Watermelon and strawberry