Always Add Lemon buttermilk-marinated chicken with roasted grapes and za’atar

This buttermilk-marinated chicken makes a great alternative Sunday lunch or family feast at any time of year – the roasted grapes are a revelation.

buttermilk-marinated chicken
Benito Martin and Jess Johnson


1 x 2kg chicken, butterflied
600ml buttermilk
1.5 litres full-cream milk
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 tbsp za’atar
150g red grapes
50ml verjus, or red or
white wine
50ml chicken stock
25g butter
1 tsp sherry or red wine vinegar
5 brined grape leaves (optional)

1. Season your bird with salt and refrigerate for 30 minutes, then place in a bowl that will hold it snugly. If the bowl is too large, the liquid won’t cover the chicken. Alternatively, you can use a sealable plastic bag. Pour the buttermilk and milk over the bird and leave it to marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

2. The next day, remove the bird from the liquid and set it directly in a roasting tin, skin side up, and allow it to come to room temperature. Set a chargrill pan over a medium-high heat. Drizzle the chicken skin with a little oil and place the whole flattened bird on the grill, skin side down, to get it nicely coloured. Sear for 5-7 minutes. Once you have good grill marks, flip the bird over and place it directly on a roasting tin, skin side up.

3. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Roast the chicken in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 70C on a cooking thermometer.

4. Approximately 10 minutes before your chicken is finished, drizzle it with some extra olive oil and sprinkle the za’atar over the top. When the bird is cooked, remove it from the oven and set it on a chopping board to rest for 20 minutes.

5. Next, check the roasting tray. If the fat and dripping look quite burned, rinse it off before adding your grapes to the tin, but if the dripping is just deeply caramelised, place your grapes on top of that spot on the tray.

6. Pour the verjus on to the grapes and sprinkle them with salt and olive oil. Return the tray to the oven and roast at 220C/200C fan/gas 7 for 10-15 minutes, or until the grapes swell and look like they will burst.

7. Remove from the oven and set the grapes aside. To make a little sauce, place the roasting tin over a medium-low heat on the stove and add the chicken stock and any juices the chicken has released while resting. Add the butter and let it simmer, reduce and thicken. Add the vinegar to the sauce once reduced. It may need a bit more salt or butter depending on the sourness of the grapes, so have a taste. Set aside for pouring over the chicken.

8. I like to fry some brined grape leaves in olive oil until they are crispy, but this is not essential, just beautiful and tasty.

9. Carve your buttermilk-marinated chicken and serve with the roasted grapes and juice, and the grape leaves, if you’ve done them.

Now buy the book!

always add lemon recipesOur recipes are taken from Always Add Lemon by Danielle Alvarez, which is published by Hardie Grant, price £26. To order a copy for £22.10 with free p&p until 15 November go to or call 020 3308 9193.