Pepe chicken

Pepe chicken

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  • 6–8
  • Easy
  • 2–3 hours marinating time
  • 35–40 minutes

"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. " – Maria Bradford.


  • 10–12 chicken thighs
  • For the West African pepper blend:
  • 2 1⁄2 t grains of paradise
  • 2 T black peppercorns
  • 2 T white peppercorns
  • 1 T cubeb pepper
  • 3 T allspice berries
  • For the pepe marinade:
  • 2 2 onions
  • 20 g garlic (about 5 cloves)
  • 25 g fresh ginger
  • 50 ml lemon juice
  • 1 T curry powder
  • 1 t West African pepper blend
  • 2 stalks lemongrass
  • 1 t sweet paprika
  • 1 r ground coriander
  • 2 t salt (or to taste)
  • 200 g unsalted peanut butter (use one without palm oil)
  • 2–3 scotch bonnet chillies, seeds left in, to taste

Cooking Instructions

1. To make the West African pepper blend, 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.

2. For the pepe marinade, put all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth and well combined.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. Preheat the oven to 200°C.

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).

Cook's 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.

This is an extract from "Sweet Salone: Recipes from the Heart of Sierra Leone" by Maria Bradford. Published by Hardie Grant and distributed by Jonathan Ball Publishers. Design and location photography by Dav E Brown. Recipe photography by Yuki Sugiura.

Find more chicken thigh recipes here. 

Maria Bradford Recipe by: Maria Bradford
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Maria Bradford grew up in Freetown, and started helping her mother prepare meals from about nine years of age. Inspired by her heritage, Maria prepares traditional African dishes and high-end Afro-fusion cuisine. Maria studied at Leith’s School of Food and Wine and founded Maria Bradford Kitchen in 2017, which became known as Shwen Shwen. Her catering is in high demand for corporate events and private dining throughout the UK and Africa. Maria lives in the south of England with her husband and two children.

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