There’s quite a bit of dish about this famous Chicken Salad.
As Queen Elizabeth celebrates her 70th year on the throne, one salute we can all enjoy is her “Coronation Chicken”. This classic recipe has undergone multiple changes since its invention. However, all of them are essentially cold chicken in curried mayonnaise. The original version is far more complex. It features a reduction of red wine, bay leaf, tomato puree, apricot purée, and heavy cream. It is truly the Queen of Chicken Salads and well worth the effort. I found the original recipe on a blog written by the wonderfully-named Luke Honey. Mr. Honey who lives in London with his wife and a whippet has written The Greasy Spoon since 2007. Here’s the link: https://lukehoney.typepad.com. Now back to the Salad and the dish.
Coronation Salad is attributed to Constance Spry, a society florist who stole the recipe.
Ms. Spry, a noted social climber, ran something called Winkfield Domestic Science School. Her students were asked to cater a luncheon for the leaders of the British Commonwealth Nations gathered for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. In fact, one of her instructors, Chef Rosemary Hume, did all the heavy lifting. Or did she? The dish was not at all new. It was a rehashing of Chicken in Curried Mayonnaise which had been concocted for Elizabeth’s Grandfather, George the 5th. It was served to celebrate the 25th year of his reign. It was therefore christened “Jubilee Chicken”. Can you guess what was served when, in 1977, the Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee? Jubilee Chicken.
Ahead of the Coronation, the Coronation Chicken recipe was published for the public.
The idea was that commoners everywhere could eat what the new Queen herself was eating. Unfortunately, Britain’s wartime food rationing was still in place. It’s unlikely common folk had enough chicken and cream to whip up the salad. That may explain why there are so many versions of the original. The British had spent 14 years ‘making do’ and improvising dishes with whatever they had on hand. So they may well have approximated the recipe. I confess to making a couple of changes while sticking to the original.
Poach the chicken breasts instead of roasting a whole chicken.
The result is flawless chicken—moist and tender—and healthier too. Whether that ‘healthier chicken’ will compensate for the fat content rest of the recipe is questionable to say the least. I used marscapone in lieu of the whipped cream. This was done solely because I had marscapone on hand. It worked very well. You can choose for yourself. Finally, there was no watercress to be found here. I used lettuce to add color to the platter and Basil to garnish it. Here’s the recipe and after it some other Chicken Salads to enjoy.
Truly the Queen of Chicken Salads, this curried version is full of flavor and creamy goodness.
- 2.5 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 4 lbs bone-in skin-on chicken breasts
- 16 oz. fat-free low-sodium Chicken Broth (or water)
- 6 teaspoons dried mixed herbs
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 small, finely chopped onion
- 1 tbsp curry paste
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 100ml red wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 lemon juice
- 4 finely chopped apricot halves
- 300ml (1/2 pint) mayonnaise
- 100ml (4 fl oz) whipping cream or 4 oz. marscapone
- salt and pepper
- watercress or lettuce leaves and basil to garnish
- Step 1 To Poach the Chicken
- Step 2 Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of a small, heavy-bottomed pot. Make sure they fit in a single layer. Cover the chicken with broth, water or a combination of both. Add the herbs and bay leaf.
- Step 3 Bring to a boil, then quickly reduce the heat to low so that the water is barely at a simmer.
- Step 4 Partly cover with the pot lid and gently simmer for 10 minutes.
- Step 5 Turn off the heat completely and allow the chicken to remain in the hot liquid for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Step 6 Remove and cube the chicken into 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces. Put the chicken into a large bowl. The meat should be cooked through and opaque throughout.
- Step 7 Notes
- Step 8 If you don’t have chicken broth, you can use water plus a quarter of an onion to make the broth more flavorful. A little white wine or light beer also adds a nice flavor.
- Step 9 For the herbs, Herbs de Provence or an Italian herb blend are good options. Or, simply add dashes of different herbs like oregano, thyme, dried red pepper flakes, or rosemary.
- Step 10 To make Coronation Chicken Salad
- Step 11 In a small saucepan, heat the oil, add the onion, and cook for about three minutes, until softened.
- Step 12 Add the curry paste, tomato puree, wine, bay leaf, and lemon juice.
- Step 13 Simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes until well reduced.
- Step 14 Strain and leave to cool.
- Step 15 Puree the chopped apricot halves in a blender or food processor or through a sieve.
- Step 16 Beat the cooled sauce into the mayonnaise with the apricot puree.
- Step 17 Whip the cream to stiff peaks. Fold the cream into the mayonnaise mixture. Alternatively, fold the marscapone into the mixture
- Step 18 Season, adding a little extra lemon juice if necessary.
- Step 19 Combine the mayonnaise dressing and the chicken, garnish with watercress and serve.