It seems as if we've hit something of a impasse regarding the origins of coronation chicken here at E2. Iain mentioned Constance Spry as its inventor, whereas Felicity Cloake at the Guardian prefers Spry's colleague at the Cordon Bleu cookery school, Rosemary Hume, as the brains behind this much-maligned but actually rather delicious concoction. What is beyond doubt is that it was a recipe designed to bring together the nation, under the aegis of Empire, as it celebrated the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953 at street parties or even watched the ceremony on those new-fangled televidium boxes. It was intended to be Anglo-Indian in influence and edible with only a fork; not to mention balancing celebratory with austere, given it was party food to be served when rationing was still in place.
Hume's original recipe is a fairly labour intensive affair that combines poached chicken with a reduction of onions, spices, red wine, tomato puree, and seasonings, together with apricot puree, mayonnaise, and whipped cream. It's somewhat different from that which we now find relegated to sandwiches, which is precisely where I last saw it—when my mother had it at the cricket, quintessentially English, I know—and felt compelled to make my own version.
I used Cloake's recipe as the base, but to be fair, by the time that I'd finished with it, it was rather different. Regardless, I am thankful for the inspiration and guidance.
- For the poached chicken
- 1 chicken - we're all au fait with my definitely-free-range and organic-if-you-can-afford-it admonishments by now, yes?
- 10 peppercorns
- 1 tspn salt
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Pinch saffron (threads are preferable to powder)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2cm fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
Place the chicken in a large, lidded pan with the spices, cover with water and bring to the boil. As soon as the liquid starts to bubble, reduce it to the gentlest of simmers and allow the chicken to cook through. It'll take roughly 90 minutes. Let the chicken cool in the poaching liquid before draining it, skinning it, and chopping it into bite-size chunks. If you leave the chicken overnight to cool, please remove the cinnamon stick and ginger slices.
In a small frying pan, cook through the curry paste and add the chopped apricots for a minute or two. You don't want them to collapse, but tenderise.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped chicken with the hot curry paste, the mayonnaise, and the mango chutney. As soon as the cooled chicken and mayonnaise has taken the heat out of the hot paste, toss in the mango and lemon juice, and mix.
Serve with a green salad and some kind of starch, new potatoes or rice work well.
Chenin Blancs work very well with spicy food, but seeing as it's a celebration, bubbles are entirely acceptable. There is no obligation to sing the national anthem before indulging.
Music to cook to: Pomp and Circumstance, whatever else?