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Coronation chicken: a dish fit for a queen - Elisabeth Luard

Blog | By Elisabeth Luard | May 19, 2022

With the Platinum Jubilee fast approaching, there is no dish more appropriate than the one Constance Spry prepared for Her Majesty's coronation banquet: the original coronation chicken. By Elisabeth Luard

Constance Spry is a cook for our times. Replace your sauce-spattered hardback with Grub Street's thumping new edition of The Constance Spry Cookery Book, co-authored in 1956 by Knightsbridge florist and ex-East End teacher Connie with Cordon Blue founder, Rosemary Hume.

Blessed with a foreword by Prue Leith and a soothing absence of glossy photographs, the book's a bargain at £30 for more than a thousand pages of sensible advice and all the recipes you'll ever need, including the original Coronation Chicken.

Mrs Spry's claim to culinary immortality is not, as might be supposed, a curry-flavoured sandwich-filling a full-scale dinner-party dish that's been subjected to more re-workings than you-know-what - and none of them a patch on the original.

Constance Spry's Coronation Chicken

A dish suitable for the cook-hostess since it can be prepared in advance, advises Mrs. Spry. For 1950's authenticity, serve with a pomegranate-free rice salad and follow with chocolate mousse.

Serves a dinner-party of 6-8

2 small or 1 large roasting chicken(s)

1 glass white wine

Carrot, onion, celery-top, bayleaf, thyme, parsley-stalks

Peppercorns and salt

The sauce

1 tablespoon butter

1 thick slice onion, finely chopped

1 dessertspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon tomato puree

1 glass red wine

To serve

about 500ml home-made lemon mayonnaise

3-4 tablespoons whipped cream

2 tablespoons apricot jam

Salt and pepper

To decorate

Toasted almonds

Small white grapes

Put the chicken, vegetables and aromatics in a roomy saucepan which will just accommodate the bird. Pour in the wine plus enough water to submerge everything. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat, lid and leave to simmer until tender. Allow 60-90 minutes, depending on size. Let the chicken(s) cool in the broth. Skin, de-bone and cut the meat into bite-sized pieces.

Meanwhile make the sauce: heat the butter in a medium saucepan and fry the onion until soft. Stir in the curry powder and let it fry for a moment. Add the tomato puree, wine and a glass of water, and let it bubble uncovered until reduced by half. Strain and leave to cool.

To make the mayonnaise, you'll need 3 egg yolks and about 450ml oil (half olive, half sunflower). Start with both the major ingredients at room temperature. Fork the yolks in a bowl with a tablespoonful of French mustard. Using a wooden spoon, work in the oil, drop by drop at first, more freely as the sauce emulsifies. Finish with lemon juice to taste. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir the cooled sauce and the apricot jam into the mayonnaise, and fold in the whipped cream. Fold all but a third pf the sauce with the chicken, and pile it on a pretty serving dish. Cover with the remaining sauce and decorate with toasted almonds and peeled de-seeded grapes.

Serve with a rice salad: combine cooked long-grain rice with lightly-cooked peas, diced raw cucumber, finely chopped fresh herbs (chives, parsley, tarragon) and a well-seasoned French dressing.

Chocolate mousse

Break 175g dark chocolate into pieces, melt with 5 tablespoons water and cook to a thick cream.

Draw off the fire, cool slightly and beat in 15g butter.

Add a little rum or vanilla-essence and beat in the yolks of 3 eggs, one by one.

Whisk the whites stiffly and stir briskly into the chocolate.

Pour into 6-8 small cups and leave overnight. Very 1950s.