COronation Chicken is getting a bad name: a name “synonymous with the mass-produced, sickly gloop that is racked up for lackluster buffets,” as food historian Polly Russell puts it. “A dog of a saucer,” said Tom Parker Bowles. Although it no longer has the same touch of exotic glamor as it did in 1953, poulet reine Elizabeth is still a beautiful centerpiece for any party, whatever you’re celebrating.
Preparation 30 minutes
Cook 90 minutes
1 chicken (about 1½kg)
1 cinnamon stick
5 black peppercorns
1 pinch of saffron
1 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
4 cm piece of fresh ginger
2 tablespoons curry powder
50 g slivered almonds
50 g ready-to-eat dried apricots
5 tbsp good quality mango chutney (I swear by Geeta’s)
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
200 ml full Greek yogurt
1 small bunch of fresh coriander
For the mayonnaise (or use 200ml ready-made)
1 egg yolk
1 generous pinch of salt
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine or cider vinegaror lemon juice
200 ml light olive, grapeseed, sunflower or other neutral oil
1 Take your time
First things first, this isn’t one of those “quick” recipes that you can make in the time it takes your partner to butter the sandwiches. To do the coronation chicken justice, you have to make it from scratch, and that starts with poaching a chicken. Yes, you could substitute pre-cooked meat, but I wouldn’t.
2 Prepare the chicken
Place the bird, breast side up, in a large saucepan with the cinnamon, peppercorns, saffron, salt, bay leaf and half of the ginger, sliced. Fill the pan with cold water until only the top of the breast is visible. (If you don’t have a large enough pan, break the chicken into pieces, or use two breasts, two whole legs, or two thighs and two drumsticks and two wings.
3 Poach the chicken
Cover the pan, bring the contents to a boil and turn the heat to low so that only an occasional bubble of air rises to the surface. Poach gently for about an hour and a half, until the juices run clear from the thickest part of the thigh, or a cooking thermometer taped in the same place reads a minimum of 74C.
4 Let cool
Let the chicken cool a bit in the poaching liquid, if you have time – at this point the meat won’t look as appetizing as a roast bird, but it will be much juicier. When it’s easy to handle, remove the meat from the bones and cut it into bite-sized pieces; discard the skin. (The cooking liquid can now be strained and used as stock; it freezes well.)
5 Start the mayonnaise
Place the egg yolk and salt in a medium bowl (set on a damp cloth to secure). Beat for about 20 seconds, until slightly thickened (you can use electric beaters for this, but it is difficult to make this small amount in a food processor), then add the mustard and vinegar or lemon juice and beat for a further 30 seconds.
6 Finish the mayonnaise
Gradually whisk in the oil, adding it in a very thin stream to start with, whisking all the time until the mayonnaise begins to thicken. Now add the oil more quickly and beat until the mixture is thick and shiny. If it splits, don’t panic: Break a second egg yolk into a second bowl, beat briefly to thicken, then gradually whisk in the split mayonnaise and continue from there.
7 Make the dressing
Toast the curry powder in a dry frying pan until fragrant and place in a bowl. While the pan is still hot, toast the almonds for the topping and set aside for later. Peel and chop the rest of the ginger and finely chop the apricots (you can substitute other dried fruit here, too, if you like – sultanas, although not in the original, still feel retro).
8 Fold everything together
Place the ginger and apricots in a large bowl with the chutney and curry powder. Stir in Worcestershire sauce and fold in mayonnaise and yogurt until evenly blended and no streaks are left. Season to taste, stir in the chicken and let it blend for at least an hour – if you’re making it ahead of time, refrigerate.
9 Finishing touch
Before serving, roughly chop the coriander and stir most of it into the mix, keeping the rest aside for garnish. Transfer the coronation chicken to a serving platter and sprinkle with the almonds and remaining coriander. I like to combine it with warm basmati rice and a fresh green salad, but bread or new potatoes also work well.