Coronation Chicken Salad: Fit for a Queen.

coronation-chicken-salad…and, boy, do I know a lot of them.

Last weekend, I was (cheerfully) roped into helping prepare and serve a “proper” English tea by an old friend who had offered up her home, her china, and her silver tea pots for the benefit of my goddaughter’s school. I have placed the word “proper” in quotation marks, because this was a tea hosted by Canadian-Americans, which means that it just might have been even more so than a true, English tea. The Canadians, after all, still celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday. The English, however, have long since moved on.

Scones were baked and served with Devonshire cream, butter, and jam. Little tea cakes were made available as were a number of precious, crustless tea sandwiches: cucumber, egg salad, smoked salmon, and Coronation Chicken.

It was the last one that really caught my attention. I asked Mary Pat, my friend Shannon’s mother (and my former, formidable piano teacher), about it and she explained that the dish was called Coronation Chicken Salad because it was served at a luncheon in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. Well, that seemed straightforward enough.

It also fit in nicely with the conversation about World War II food rationing I was having with my friend Craig and my goddaughter, Zelly, on the way to their house. Don’t ask. These things just happen. We got so involved talking about u-boats, the Battle of Britain, and how Queen Elizabeth (mother of the present queen regnant) was glad Buckingham Palace was bombed so that she could then “look the East End in the face”, that we forgot to stop for some necessary but overlooked tea supplies.

The Back Story

Coronation Chicken Salad was created by chef Rosemary Hume and the credit grabbed by one Constance Spry, a social-climbing society florist when students at her Winkfield Domestic Science School (at which Miss Hume was an instructress) were asked to cater a luncheon for the leaders of the Commonwealth Nations gathering together for the new queen’s coronation.

Yes, Winkfield. The dish was anything but new at the time; merely a rehashing of the chicken in curried mayonnaise concocted for Elizabeth’s grandfather, George V, in celebration of his Silver Jubilee. The name of the dish was, unsurprisingly, “Jubilee Chicken”. And you’ll never guess what was served in honor of Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee. It’s true. Jubilee Chicken.

I can just hear the Queen Mum saying to her daughter, “But we made it because we thought you loved it so much.God rest her gin-loving soul.

The recipe was published in the newspapers ahead of the coronation so that the common people might partake of what their new queen would be eating on her very special day. However, since food rationing did not end until 1954 (several months later), it is very doubtful that most of the common folk had had sufficient amounts of chicken and dairy products on hand to whip of a batch of the stuff. If they had learned anything in 14 years of food restrictions and shortages, it was to make do, to improvise. Perhaps that is why there are so many different versions of this particular salad. Individual households approximated the dish with what they had on hand.

Today’s Coronation Chicken Salad is, essentially, cold chicken in curried mayonnaise. Simple but good. The original version, however, is a much more complex organism that included a cooked-down sauce of red wine, bay leaf, and tomato purée, and an addition of apricot purée and heavy cream. Throw in some mayonnaise and curry powder and… I’ll put it this way– I get the feeling that anyone who ate it would be spending more time on the throne than Elizabeth Regina.

Coronation-ish Chicken Salad

This is not the original recipe. Given the food rationing of the time, I think it’s entirely in the spirit of the thing to improvise with ingredients one has on hand. For example, if a bottle of red wine is opened in my house, there will never be any left over for use in a chicken salad. Instead, I have added vinegar. I’ve also omitted the original call for heavy cream, and the cooking of the onions, owing to my own preference for bolder flavors and an even stronger tendency towards laziness. Feel free to add or subtract whatever ingredients you like. Except for chicken, mayonnaise, and curry powder. I don’t mind, and I don’t think Her Britannic Majesty will mind much, either. For the original recipe, please visit The Greasy Spoon, a site I stumbled upon and of which I am now rather fond.

Note: I had chosen to serve my salad clad in nothing but a crown of watercress. Upon examination of the opening photo, however, I realized that crowns are meant to be worn upon the head, not sat upon. It is a small but important error. If it bothers you, please feel free to turn the whole thing upside down and place upon your head or the head of the queen nearest you.

Ingredients:

Serves 4 to 6

• 4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, poached and diced
• 1/2 cup mayonnaise
• 1 tablespoon curry powder (more or less, according to taste.)
• 2 tablespoons mango chutney or apricot preserves
• 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
• 1 stalk celery, finely diced
• 1/4 cup currants or raisins
• 1 tablespoon vinegar: cider, champagne or whatever
• The juice of 1/2 lemon
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 1/4 cup chopped cashews for garnish
• Watercress, washed and de-stemmed, for garnish

Preparation:

1. Combine mayonnaise, curry powder, vinegar, chutney, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Stir well.

2. Throw in the chopped chicken breast meat, onion, celery, and currants/raisins. Stir until everything is well-coated.

3. Refrigerate overnight to let all the ingredients get to know each other a little better.

4. To serve, place on a bed of watercress and top with chopped cashews. Or slap some between two slices of bread. I will leave the decision of whether or not to discard the bread crust to your own dainty or non-dainty preferences.

Coronation Chicken
 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

About Michael Procopio

I write about food and am very fond of Edward Gorey. And gin.
This entry was posted in Celebrities, Sandwiches, Savories and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Coronation Chicken Salad: Fit for a Queen.

  1. Mary Pat says:

    Great article and you are really funny. My friend is staying with me and I read it to her and we really had a couple of good chuckles.

  2. Sean says:

    Funny, my grandmother used to make curried chicken salad pretty frequently. If she know that it was Coronation Salad, she never used the name. Whatever you call it, it’s delicious. Cheers!

  3. Pingback: The Henri Bergson: Creative Evolution of a Sandwich | Bay Area Bites

  4. Pingback: The Henri Bergson: A Chicken-and-Egg Salad Sandwich « Food for the Thoughtless

  5. I am eager to try this, years ago I frequented an American Restaurant in Albania with a beautiful coronation chicken salad and I have wanted the recipe since! Thanks for posting.

    • michaelprocopio says:

      You ate Coronation Chicken Salad in Albania? I’m jealous. What I wouldn’t give to casually start off a conversation with:

      “So there I was in Tirana, lunching on Coronation Chicken Salad, and trying to mind my own business when, all of a sudden…”

      And then I’d trail off with far away look in my eye, and pour myself another drink.

  6. Your version of coronation chicken is far simplier than the original complex one that I take some time to read. Since we are not born royal, let just stick to the simplicity instead. Love your recipe.

    Daniel

    Chicken coop plans

    • michaelprocopio says:

      Thanks Daniel,

      Have you made my recipe yet, or does it just read lovely? I’ve been having a hankering for it lately. I think I need to make it again.

      Oh, and thank you very much for taking the time to visit and comment on my blog!

      Michael

  7. I have made this recipe two times in about ten days! We all love it, even my children! Thanks for sharing!

    • michaelprocopio says:

      I’m very glad. And gratified, too. I’ll make it again for myself this week, just to see how it holds up. I haven’t made it since the original posting.

  8. sandy mitchell says:

    Hi Michael, me and the girls are getting together to watch the royal wedding on the 29th and of course we’re all dressing for the occasion – me in my finest Lady Di outfit red 80′s longsleeved frock with whopping white scolloped collar complete with pearl choker, Needless to say lashings of champagne ( cheap sparkling white wine more like) AND Coronation Chicken!! The others will bring cucumber sangers and a jubilee twist but I reckon my coronation combo’s gunna knock their corgi’s off! Chin Chin old chap, Sandy

  9. Helen Belchamber says:

    Hello, Michael,
    I’m hosting a Royal wedding viewing for some very excited Kiwi friends here in New Zealand – the bunting is up and the sherry trifle is made. I just popped into the study to look up what exactly to do with my curry powder and mayo and here you are! So I shall now nip off to ‘Shoprite’ for some extra supplies and do your recipe! I doubt I can find watercress, but I can nip outside and pick a lemon…
    I’ll let you know, but if necessary I can always avert disaster with extra Pimm’s…
    Helen

    • Okay, a year later, here I am responding to this. Apologies for missing it!

      I am very much intrigued by the idea of a sherry trifle. Tell me, will you make it for the queen’s Jubilee?

      And I think that Pimm’s hide a multitude of sins.

      Cheers,

      Michael

  10. Pingback: Leipzig Zeitgeist Blog » » Sandwich With a Smile

  11. John David says:

    I NOTICE THERE IS NO MENTION OF DICED BOILED POTATOES IN THE SALED…BUT WHEN I LOOK AT THE PIC THERE SEEMS TO BE CHUNKED POTATO IN IT…CAN ANYONE HELP ME AS TO ADD CHUNKED BOILED POTATO OR NOT

    • John David, no potatoes were harmed in the making of this salad. What you are seeing is the cubed breast meat of chicken slathered in Coronation Dressing. Of course, as I have stated in this post, you can pretty much add whatever you like to it and call it your own.

      Cheers,

      Michael

      P.S. There is no need to shout. I can read you just fine.

  12. Didie Vickery says:

    I decided to make this coronation chicken, seeing that the lady has been on the throne for 60 years. It seems there are variations to this recipe, but I like yours.

    Thank you,

    Didie

    • Hello Didie,

      I’m happy to know you like my version. I find it extremely versatile. I am going to make it again in celebration of that dear woman’s 60th anniversary on the throne.

      Cheers,

      Michael

  13. Pingback: Food Friday: Coronation Chicken

  14. John David says:

    I am truly sorry about the “shouting”..I had misplaced my spectacles so was typing in large print to be able see what I was saying….I told friends about your comment and they were stunned that I should do such a thing.. and also that I did not know the correct manners of using large type….I am sorry…. but do appreciate your kind reply..in this our Queens Jubilee Year, I remain…. John David

    • I knew the shouting was unintentional, but I admit to having a spot of fun pointing it out and am delighted by your reply.

      I am getting to the point where I may find spectacles necessary myself as I type this.

      Michael

  15. Charmaine says:

    Been trawling the web looking for a chicken pasta salad to pack for lunch at school for my teenage daughter. Love this recipe. Going to add some pasta, cucumber and cherry tomatoes instead of the watercress.
    Thx
    Charmaine
    South Africa

  16. Linda Saslow says:

    Your majesty, why can’t I pintrest this…or can I? I’m new to pinning and am only pinning food. If I did books and such my life would be pintrest. I’ve made curried chicken salad before, but I think this is a better version. XOXO Linda

  17. Trudi says:

    We are hosting a jubilee tea party on 5th June and after finally deciding that I really should do coronation chicken sandwiches alongside my salmon and cucumber, i finally found your recipe after a good hour’s trawling the old t’internet – it was the only one I fancied the look of.
    Hopefully the outlaws will like it, if I don’t drink too. I will let you know how it went down with my guests :-)

    • Trudi says:

      That last bit should of course read ‘too much.’ damn iPad.

    • Trudi,

      I do hope you’ll like it. I was introduced to Coronation Chicken by a Canadian. I absolutely loved it and decided to do my own version. It is apparently my most popular recipe, so I pray to high heaven that you like it. I look forward to hearing back from you.

      Oh, and think good thoughts for Prince Phillip tomorrow. I just read that he was hospitalized with a bladder infection.

      Michael

      • Trudi says:

        Hello Michael

        I am pleased to announce that the coronation chicken went down a storm with everyone :-)

        The celery was omitted as personally I can’t stand the stuff, and I have added it to my recipe book (fully credited to yourself) so hopefully in many years when I am old and grey I can teach my grandchildren how to make it.

        I have to admit that this is the first time I have tried it as I just couldn’t really get the cold chicken curry idea to sit right with my taste buds – especially within a sandwich but I was very pleasantly surprised.

        Thanks for sharing and we all too wish Prince Phillip a speedy recovery

        Trudi

        • Trudi says:

          I have just read the plagiarism bit at the bottom (opps, a bit too late :-( ). My recipe book is of course just a personal one and I sincerely hope you don’t mind me shamelessly nicking your recipe ?

          • You are most welcome to write down the recipe for private use.

            Recipes are meant to be shared. They are merely not meant to be plagiarized and sold for profit, which you are not doing.

            I am damned delighted that you like my food enough to want to make it.

  18. Tami says:

    We are having our annual street party this afternoon and as the only Brit on the street I have decided to make your Coronation Chicken Salad as my contribution to the Pot Luck Chop Off Salad Competition. I threw all the ingredients together two nights ago so the flavours have had plenty of time to mingle. I just tasted it and OMG (excuse me for shouting lol)!! It is yummy! If I don’t win this year there’s something wrong with my neighbours taste buds!! haha
    I don’t have any watercress so I’m serving it on argula which I think has a good peppery flavour and should go well. Another nod to the post war ‘rationing so use what ya got’ tradition with which I was raised!
    Thanks for the recipe!
    Tami

  19. Tami says:

    Just wanted to let you know that I won!! Thank you!! I suppose I should share the winner prize of a bottle of Valpolicella but I fear it will all be gone by the time you read this!

    Thanks again

    Tami

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>