Bertus Basson’s hot way with peri-peri chicken

Bertus Basson’s hot way with peri-peri chicken
Bertus Basson’s peri-peri chicken finishing on the coals. (Photo: Supplied)

We asked chef Bertus Basson, who commands the Boland restaurant scene with a slew of great eateries, to share a favourite recipe with us. He chose a dish beloved by South Africans: his own peri-peri chicken.

Bertus Basson stands apart in the world of top South African chefs, operating in his own way, in his own space (or spaces), and doing so where he wants to be: in the Boland that is his natural environment.

Quite why he wants to do so in quite so many of his own restaurants has long puzzled me, but he seems to manage this without faltering, and juggles all this while also making copious TV shows. I’ve seen first-hand that he remains unfazed and calm (inasmuch as a chef is ever truly calm) at the restaurant coalface, and it is undeniable that he trusts his staff, and they are loyal to him. Best he does, given how often he has to go away on shoots.

I first got to know him circa 2008 or so when he was a new kid on the block. He rose super-fast, and my first sight of him was at an Eat Out Awards show in Cape Town, where he was in the kitchen doing what was to become a part of his craft: appearing on camera, smiling and at ease, talking the audience through the dish he was preparing as part of that dinner. He was among the winners that night, for Overture, which has since closed. This seems to be a part of his modus operandi: keep them fresh, keep the most successful restaurants on the boil, shutter those that begin to trail behind. That’s my impression at any rate.

Read more in Daily Maverick: From biltong to bokkoms, Bertus Basson connects with the earth

I last saw Bertus in November 2023 when he snuck up behind me at the Galliova Awards, which he was hosting at his Chorus restaurant on Waterkloof Estate in Somerset West, while the crowd was being served bubbly and canapés. “How’s my favourite chef?” he stage-whispered in my ear, which was slightly awkward because I was chatting to my colleague Anna Trapido, and she and I were to be announced as the joint winner of the Writer of the Year awards only three courses later. But look, I’m not everyone’s favourite, so I’ll take it.

He is not without laurels himself, and this is said with ironic British restraint. Most recently he was the Eat Out Chef of the Year 2019, and every year when those awards are dished out, his restaurants feature without fail. Again, this most likely has something to do with that philosophy he has of keeping things on the boil.

Chef Bertus Basson. (Photo: Supplied)

Read more in Daily Maverick: Bertus Basson comes to the rescue

His restaurant empire now includes Chorus, Eike, Kantien, Spek & Bone, Geuwels, Clara’s Barn and De Vrije Burger. He is committed to fresh local produce, an acute attention to detail, and likes to express South African heritage “and creatively tell the stories of our history, our people and our food”, as per his website. Which also shares: “Bertus is a popular television personality, bringing his years of experience to the table with series including In Die Sop: Restaurant Evolusie and Sjefhuis, as well as The Ultimate Braai Master, Brood en Botter and Goed, Beter, Bertus.”

He grew up in Nelspruit, and when I asked him to share a recipe with us, he chose peri-peri chicken, having grown up eating it there. It’s a dish close to his heart, forming part of many childhood memories.

This recipe is his take on “a nostalgic experience captured in food”, he told us. The perfect peri peri chook, he says, should have a crisp skin, moist flesh and a flavour balance between spicy and mild acidity.

Bertus Basson’s peri-peri chicken

Peri-peri marinade:

6 fresh chillies

3 bay leaves

10g coriander seeds

10g black peppercorns 

15g fresh coriander leaves 

10g paprika 

5g caraway seeds 

5g cayenne pepper 

2 lemons – zest and juice 

80ml white vinegar 

60g sugar 

20g salt 

1 whole chicken 


Blend all of the ingredients together. Try not to make it too fine, leave some texture in there! 

Spatchcock the chicken and slash the legs, it will allow the marinade to penetrate well. 

Marinade the chicken overnight. 

Braai on open moderate coals, in a kettle braai, and try not to turn the chicken too frequently. 

Keep on basting during the cooking time. DM


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