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Andi Oliver’s tea-brined spiced barbecue chicken recipe

Earl Grey tea adds a citrusy succulence to flame-grilled thighs and drumsticks.

(Robert Billington/PA)

“To brine or not to brine, that is the question. I would say I’m firmly on the side of brine,” says chef and Great British Menu host Andi Oliver.

“It means you start to pack in the flavour early on and it really does bring a succulence to the meat. This recipe uses an Earl Grey tea brine, which holds the citrus flavour of bergamot at its heart.”

Tea-brined spiced barbecue chicken

(Serves 6)


  • 6 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in

  • 6 chicken drumsticks, skin on and bone in

  • 1 lemon, halved

For the brine:

  • 3 Earl Grey tea bags

  • Peeled skin from 2 clementines

  • 2 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked

  • 2½tsp sugar of your choice

  • 13⁄4tbsp table salt

  • 1 litre boiling water

For the seasoning paste:

  • 6 spring onions, roughly chopped

  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

  • 1½tbsp rapeseed oil

  • 2tsp ground cumin

  • 2tsp paprika

  • 1tsp cayenne peppe

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the final glaze:

  • 1tbsp tamarind concentrate

  • 1tbsp molasses

  • 1tsp sugar of your choice

  • 100ml chicken stock


1. First, make your tea brine. Put the Earl Grey tea bags, clementine peel, thyme, sugar, and salt in a pot that is large enough to hold your chicken. Cover with the boiling water, stir a little to help dissolve the sugar and salt and allow to cool. Take the two lemon halves and rub them all over the chicken.

2. Now, put the chicken into the brine mixture, making sure it’s covered by the liquid. Place in the fridge and leave for a minimum of four hours, or even better, overnight. In the morning (or after four hours), blitz together all the ingredients for the seasoning paste in a food processor to make a thick paste.

3. Remove the chicken from the brine, pat it dry and add to a large bowl with the seasoning paste. Give the chicken a good rub all over with the paste, making sure it’s completely coated. Leave to marinate in the fridge for at least one hour, ideally three hours or even a bit longer if you have time.

4. Heat the barbecue to a high heat. When it’s hot, sear the chicken all over to give it a nice bit of colour, then reduce the heat if using a gas barbecue, or move over indirect heat for charcoal. Cook the chicken low and slow for about 40 minutes with the lid closed, turning occasionally, and brushing the meat with more of the spice paste as you go. Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the final glaze together in a saucepan. Set over a medium heat and bubble until thickened.

5. Brush the glaze over the chicken for the final 10 minutes of cooking, turning the chicken over often and making sure the glaze covers every part. When the juices of the chicken run clear, the chicken is cooked. Brush one last time with the glaze, remove from the heat and rest for about 20 minutes.

(Robert Billington/PA)

The Pepperpot Diaries: Stories From My Caribbean Table by Andi Oliver is published by DK, priced £27. Photography by Robert Billington. Available now.


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