Celebrating British Food & Cooking
Coronation chicken, also known as “Poulet Reine Elizabeth” is a staple of British sandwich fillings and ready meals. It has been ever since a young Queen Elizabeth II ascended the British throne in 1953.
A Bit of History
As part of the celebrations, the then director of the Windsor-based cookery school “Le Cordon Bleu” Constance Spry was tasked with putting on a banquet for attending foreign dignitaries. She came up with a dish of poached chicken in a creamy curry-flavoured sauce.
Preparing what was on the face of it a simple recipe was complicated by a number of factors:
- With the dignitaries coming from all over the world the dish couldn’t be too spicy. A fine balance between heat and flavour had to be achieved.
- It had to be prepared in advance so it was to be served cold.
- Rationing in Britain imposed during world war II was still in force and wouldn’t stop until 1955 so the ingredients had to be from the UK and not imported.
Apparently, the recipe was perfected over 3-4 weeks with the help of Spry’s assistant Angela Wood until the spice blend was perfected.
The dish was described on the banquet menu, written in French, as “Poulet Reine Elizabeth”. It was served to the 350 foreign guests with a rice salad containing peas and herbs.
It followed a tomato and tarragon soup and trout.
Strawberry galette was served for pudding, all washed down with Moselle and Champagne wines.
The Original 1953 Recipe
The original recipe used for the banquet was published in “The Constance Spry Cookery Book” and refers to a “cream of curry sauce”.
Cream of Curry Sauce
The cream of curry sauce is a reduction of chopped onions, curry powder, tomato puree, red wine and lemon juice. Once cooled the mixture is added to mayonnaise, lightly whipped cream and apricot puree.
Modern recipes for the sauce contain ingredients like mango, sultanas and Greek yoghurt, but again they had to work with what was available at the time.
Other Recipes You Maybe Interested in …..
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it called Coronation Chicken?
The recipe for Coronation Chicken was invented in 1953 for the banquet in honour of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.
What is Coronation Chicken made of?
Coronation Chicken is made from poached chicken in a creamy mildly spiced curry-flavoured sauce.
Many of the recipes you find online and in recipe books are basically just cold chicken mixed up with mayonnaise, curry powder and mango chutney with a few sultanas thrown in. Takes about 5 minutes and is ok as a sandwich filler.
This coronation chicken recipe from The Hairy Bikers’ book “Best of British” is the real deal, a proper meal and in their own words “fit for a queen”.
Here’s the Recipe …
- 2 chicken breasts skin removed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 unwaxed lemon zest and juice
- 1 knob butter
- 1 shallot finely chopped
- 1 red chilli deseeded and finely chopped
- 2 tsp madras curry powder
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 100 ml dry white wine
- 100 ml chicken stock
- 1 tbsp apricot jam
- 150 ml mayonnaise
- 75 ml crème fraîche
- 1 large mango peeled, stone removed, flesh diced
- 4 spring onions finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh coriander finely chopped
- 1 dash Tabasco sauce
- freshly ground black pepper
- green salad leaves to serve
- 50 g flaked almonds toasted lightly dry frying pan, to serve
- Rub the olive oil all over the chicken. Scatter over the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.
- Steam the chicken for 20–25 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside to cool.
- Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the shallot and chilli and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and cook for 2–3 minutes. Stir in the tomato purée and cook for a further minute. Add the wine and simmer until the volume of the liquid has reduced by half.
- Stir in the jam and stock, and simmer until the volume of the liquid has reduced by half. Set aside to cool.
- Mix the mayonnaise and the crème fraîche together in a bowl, then stir in the curry dressing. Fold in the mango, spring onions, lemon juice and coriander.
- Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Fold into the curry dressing and season with salt, pepper and Tabasco to taste. Serve with a green salad, and scatter with the toasted almond flakes.