Wednesday, 14 November 2018

100 Years of Food - 1950s

Coronation Chicken. 

I never heard of this dish until I came to Britain. I'm sure I've had a dozen or so Coronation Chicken sandwiches, chicken in some sort of spicy sauce. Not my first choice, but not unpleasant. I hadn't realised it had a history, or I might have appreciated it more. Not that Sue seemed to think the run of the mill stuff was much to do with the Proper Recipe that she used. 

Coronation Chicken at about 4 o'clock (postion, not time) served over basmati rice with peas.

Its pedigree is undeniable as it came from the cookbook written by the inventors: Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume. Funny enough, I've actually heard of Constance Spry and I somehow think of spray on oil...but her Wikipedia entry describes her path from nursing and welfare work to flower arranging.  It sort of boggles my mind as to how one makes that transition from such serious, useful work to arranging flowers but I suspect it has to do with having married better the second time around. Or perhaps after all the grimness of real life she wanted more beauty instead. So it would seem she is known first as a Florist - she eventually was florist to royalty - rather than a Cook. Reading about her almost makes we want to take an interest in flower arranging, something I've always scorned (all too achingly lady like). I may have to get my hands on her biography.

Turns out it was Hume who was the cook. She and Spry opened a school for Domestic Science (which I now as a Tightwad take very seriously) in Berkshire. Spry did the flowers for various royal functions, including the coronation of Elizabeth II and she got an OBE (an OBE for flowers, OMG), but Rosemary Hume was the Cordon Bleu chef who devised the chicken recipe and her Wikipedia entry says she should get the credit. So there. Of course Hume being French-trained initially called the dish Poulet Reine Elizabeth. The relationship between the British and the French is complicated...but of course the dish had to be given an English name.

The story Sue told was about the limitations involved in feeding masses of dignitaries following the coronation service, which would have been quite long. It had to be served cold. I'm not sure I would attempt this recipe without the actual cookbook in front of me, but my notes say whole chickens were poached in stock. The sauce included a glass of red wine, some onion, curry powder, lemon juice, sugar, oil, salt and pepper, mayonnaise, whipped cream and apricot puree. This chicken in sauce was served over basmati rice (another thing I never encountered until living in Britain), peas, cucumber cubes, herbs and French dressing made with French mustard. I can tell you that what is called French dressing over here is nothing like the stuff I grew up with in the States.

I can truthfully report Coronation Chicken is wonderful. Now I might even have to figure out Jubilee Chicken


Jean | said...

Shelley, I did a post on coronation chicken tea sandwiches. I'd be curious to see how you'd like my recipe. I love this post with all the history.

Unknown said...

We have coronation chicken with rice and courgette from time to time. It is delicious and the resulting stock from poaching the chicken makes a really good stock for soup.