buttermilk chicken with chipotle slaw

Buttermilk does amazing things to chicken, tenderizing and flavouring the flesh right to the bone. It’s a favourite treatment among American cooks and has become one of mine (I had previously only used buttermilk for making cakes and soda bread). The slaw is from the boys at Pitt Cue, the London gaff (I’m not sure it can really be called a restaurant as most people leave with food splashed down their fronts) that has put barbecue (and all things connected to it) firmly on the hipster map. Richard Turner, chef in them there parts, has allowed me to use it (I’ve changed it only slightly). He’s a doll who, despite being a worshipper of all things porcine, makes bloody good salads.

You can cook this in the oven as well as on the barbecue, so I’ve given instructions for both.



500ml (18fl oz) buttermilk

6 garlic cloves, crushed

½ tbsp cayenne pepper

salt and pepper

12 skin-on bone-in chicken thighs


½ white cabbage, cored and shredded

¼ red cabbage, cored and shredded

finely grated zest of 1 lime, plus juice of 2, or more to taste

1 garlic clove, grated

150g (5½oz) mayonnaise

25g (scant 1oz) canned chipotles in adobo, puréed, or 2 tbsp chipotle paste, or to taste

2 big tbsp soured cream

leaves from 1 bunch of coriander, chopped

a little extra virgin olive oil, if needed

Mix together the buttermilk, garlic and cayenne with plenty of salt and pepper. Using a small sharp knife, cut slits in the fleshy bits of the chicken thighs without piercing the skin. Put it in a dish and pour over the marinade. Turn the pieces, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, turning every so often. Bring to room temperature before cooking.

To cook on the barbecue: prepare the barbecue and get it to the stage where the coals are hot but no longer flaming. Shake off the excess marinade then gently wipe the chicken with kitchen paper so that no buttermilk will drip on to the coals (or it creates flames that burn the chicken). Set on the rack, cover with a lid and cook for 40–45 minutes, turning halfway. Check for doneness: the juice that runs when you pierce the flesh near the bone should be clear with no trace of pink.

Or preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5. Gently shake off the excess marinade (but don’t wipe the chicken). Put the joints into a roasting tin .

Roast for 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Cover with foil if the surface is getting too dark.

Meanwhile, make the slaw. Put both cabbages into a bowl and toss in the lime zest and juice, the garlic and salt and pepper.

Mix the mayonnaise with the chipotles. Add the soured cream and carefully stir this into the cabbage with the coriander. You might want to adjust now according to both taste and texture. If the mixture is too thick I sometimes add 1–2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Flavour wise you might want a little more chipotle or lime juice.

Serve the chicken thighs on a platter with the slaw on the side.