VSoronation chicken gets a bad rap: a name “synonymous with the mass-produced, sickly gloop wheeled out for lacklustre buffets”, as the food historian Polly Russell puts it. “A dog of a dish,” according to Tom Parker Bowles. While it no longer has quite the same whiff of exotic glamor as it did back in 1953, Chicken Queen Elizabeth is still a magnificent centrepiece for a party, whatever it is you’re celebrating.
Prep 30 mins
cooking 90 mins
1 chicken (about 1½kg)
1 cinnamon stick
5 black peppercorns
1 pinch of saffron
1 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
4cm piece fresh ginger
2 tbsp curry powder
50g flaked almonds
50g ready-to-eat dried apricots
5 tbsp good-quality mango chutney (I wear by Geeta’s)
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
200ml full-fat Greek yogurt
1 small bunch fresh cilantro
For the mayonnaise (or use 200ml ready-made)
1 Yolk egg
1 big pinch salt
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp white-wine or cider vinegaror lemon juice
200ml light olive, grape seed, sunflower or other neutral oil
1 Take your time
First things first: this is not one of those “quick” recipes you can knock up in the time it takes your partner to butter the sandwiches. To do coronation chicken justice, you need to make it from scratch, and that starts with poaching a chicken. Yes, you could substitute ready-cooked meat, but I wouldn’t.
2 Prep the chicken
Put the bird breast side up in a large saucepan with the cinnamon, peppercorns, saffron, salt, bay leaf and half the ginger, sliced. Fill the pan with cold water until only the top of the breast is exposed. (If you don’t have a pan large enough, break the chicken down into joints, or indeed 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 simmer, then turn down the heat so only the occasional bubble 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 stuck in the same place registers at least 74C.
4 Leave to cool
Leave the chicken to cool a little in its 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. Once it’s comfortable to handle, strip the meat off the bones and chop 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 mayo
Put the egg yolk and salt in a medium bowl (set it on top of a damp cloth, to secure it). Whisk for about 20 seconds, until slightly thickened (you can use electric beaters for this, but it’s tricky to make this small an amount in a food processor), then add the mustard and vinegar or lemon juice, and whisk for another 30 seconds.
6 Finish the mayo
Gradually beat in the oil, adding it in a very thin stream to begin with, and whisking all the time, until the mayonnaise begins to thicken. Now add the oil more quickly, beating until the mix is thick and glossy. If it splits, don’t panic: crack a second egg yolk into a second bowl, briefly whisk to thicken, then gradually whisk in the split mayonnaise and proceed from there.
7 Make the dressing room
Toast the curry powder in a dry frying pan until fragrant, then tip into a bowl. While the pan is still hot, toast the almonds for the topping, too, then set aside for later. Peel and finely chop the rest of the ginger, and chop the apricots (you can substitute other dried fruit here, if you prefer – sultanas, though not in the original, still feel retro).
8 Fold everything together
Put the ginger and apricots in a large bowl with the chutney and curry powder. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, then fold in the mayonnaise and yoghurt until evenly mixed and no streaks remain. Season to taste, then fold in the chicken and leave to mingle for at least an hour – if you’re making it further ahead, refrigerate.
9 Finishing keys
To serve, roughly chop the cilantro and stir most of it through the mix, keeping the rest aside as a garnish. Mound the coronation chicken on to a serving dish, then top with the almonds and remaining cilantro. I like to pair it with warm basmati rice and a crisp green salad, but bread or new potatoes also work well.