Coronation Chicken

Coronation Chicken has got a bad reputation. It’s a mad dish, totally bonkers. It elicits extreme reactions: memories of buffet lunches in village halls. It’s a dish which makes no sense – but, my goodness, get it right and it’s absolutely delicious.

As its name suggests, Coronation Chicken came into existence in 1953 – the first ‘TV supper’ for a still-rationed British public to enjoy while watching Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey. It mightn’t seem like the most regal of dishes, but it was originally smartened up with the title ‘Poulet Reine Elizabeth’ – and what few people know is that the dish it had its roots in the lesser-known Jubilee Chicken, another curried-mayonnaise creation to honour George V in 1935.

Coronation Chicken was developed by Rosemary Hume, a teacher at Le Cordon Bleu. Unusually, the cookery school was asked to cater for the Coronation Day Banquet. With 350 dignitaries from round the world celebrating in the Great Hall of Westminster School, the meal needed to cater for a wide range of tastes and preferences – and Coronation Chicken was deemed a triumph!

Time hasn’t been kind to the recipe. As more emphasis is put on ‘authenticity’, Coronation Chicken very much stands out as a snapshot in time, a glimpse into Anglo-Indian cuisine of the mid-‘50s. It is a recipe of convenience – designed to be made in advance and eaten with just a fork. If none of that bothers you (it certainly doesn’t bother me) and you can enjoy it for what it is, then I urge you to fall back in love with this buffet/picnic classic.

Most recipes call for ‘curry powder’ (which is a vaguely-titled ingredient, as each contains different ingredients and are of different strengths). We use our ‘Daal Blend’ which works brilliantly for two reasons. Firstly, the amount of turmeric, which imparts the signature yellow hue – but particularly for the amchur (ground mango powder) which has a sweet-sharp note that works well with the dried apricots. It’s not a hot blend, and particularly when tempered by the yoghurt is a child-friendly version. If you crave something a bit spicier then I suggest the addition of fresh, sliced red chillies.         

Ingredients

1 large chicken
8 Tellicherry peppercorns
5 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 pinch saffron
2 bay leaves
250g mayonnaise
250g plain yoghurt
4tbsp Worcestershire sauce
4tbsp mango chutney
50g dried apricots, sliced
2tbsp Rooted Spices Daal Blend
2tsp Tellicherry Pepprcorns, cracked
Garnish: cress / micro herbs / coriander
To serve: basmati rice, iceburg lettuce

Method

Put the chicken in a stock pot, breast side up. Cover it with boiling water from the kettle. Add the spices (Tellicherry peppercorns, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, saffron and bay leaves) and bring it to a gentle simmer. Cover it with a lid and cook for 1.5hours, or until the chicken’s juices run clear.

(NOTE rather than discarding the chicken and spice scented cooking water, I use it to cook rice or orzo – to be eaten later in the week, delicious!)

Once the chicken is cool, strip the meat from the carcass, using your hands to break it into bite-sized pieces.  Put in a covered plastic container and refrigerate.

Now for the Coronation Chicken sauce: in a large mixing bowl combine the mayonnaise, plain yoghurt, Worcestershire sauce, mango chutney and dried apricots.

Spoon the Daal Blend and Tellicherry Peppercorns  into a clean, dry frying pan and toast on the hob for 30 seconds until the spice blend ‘blooms’ and becomes very aromatic. Tip the spice blend into the Coronation Chicken sauce and stir until combined.

Once the chicken is cool, add it to the Coronation Chicken sauce and stir until it’s thoroughly coated. Serve with rice and lettuce leaves (optional) and garnish with coriander or cress.

spices used

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