Photo by: Colin Campbell

Southern fried chicken

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1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, skin on, crushed
12 bay leaves
allspice berries
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp soft brown or caster sugar
Fine sea salt
12 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
150g plain flour
1½ tbsp freshly ground white pepper
2 tsp sweet paprika
3 tbsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
1 tbsp baking powder
285ml buttermilk
About 1 litre sunflower oil, for frying

My version of this legendary dish is based on a method perfected by Michael Rhulman, whose brilliant book Rhulman's Twenty demystifies some fundamental cooking techniques. You need to start 24 hours ahead, but it's one of the most worthwhile waits I can think of. Serve with the slaw that follows. Serves six.


Pour a litre of tap water into a large saucepan and add the onion, garlic, bay, allspice, vinegar, sugar and a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat and set aside to cool; about an hour should do. Add the chicken thighs, making sure they are fully submerged, cover and leave in the fridge for 24 hours to marinate, stirring from time to time.

Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Rinse the chicken, discarding the brine, and pat dry very well. Put the flour, white pepper, paprika, coriander seeds, baking powder and a teaspoon of salt in a bowl and mix well. Pour the buttermilk into a separate bowl. Dip the chicken thighs one by one into the buttermilk – they need just a thin coating, so brush against the rim of the bowl to remove any excess – then coat with the flour mixture. You want an even yet thin coat.

Pour enough oil into a large sauté pan so that it rises 4cm up the sides. Place on a medium-high heat and use a thermometer to bring the oil to 170C (if you don't have a thermometer, the oil needs to keep sizzling away when you're frying the chicken, but only moderately so). Working in batches, so as not to overcrowd the pan and thus lower the temperature of the oil, gently lower the chicken thighs into the oil and cook for nine minutes, turning once. Transfer to a kitchen towel-lined plate and keep warm while you cook the rest of the chicken.

Transfer the thighs to a baking tray and finish them off in the oven for a further eight to 12 minutes, until cooked through. Leave to rest for five minutes before serving.

Perfect with

  1. Allspice (pimento)

    Sweet and mellow, this must-have spice is an Ottolenghi favourite

    Allspice (pimento)

  2. Riesling vinegar

    An elegant alternative to cider vinegar: fruity, floral and refreshing

    Riesling vinegar

  3. Melon Blanc, Domaine de la Cadette, Burgundy, France, 2015

    Clean and chalky with white pepper spice and grassy freshness

    Melon Blanc, Domaine de la Cadette, Burgundy, France, 2015


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  • Shop First attempt at brining - lovely result
    (09/11/2014) Not only does this chicken dish look good, but it really does taste fabulous. We thought we would try it for ourselves as we love experimenting.
    Brining is new to us, and we found it wasn't difficult or time consuming at all. The chicken was so moist on the inside that we feel it really did make a difference. Slightly overcooked, but the taste and texture withstood this. The crispy coating was very very more-ish too, possibly crispier than some well known brand. There really is nothing too technical here for the average cook. Your guests will surely be back again…
    If you want to see how our finished chicken looked, then it's here.