Coronation Fare Part 1

Now don't start complaining that we still have a couple of weeks to go. When it comes to matters royal, the art of preparation knows no bounds. I can tell you that contingency plans for the late Queen dying in Scotland started some 15 years ago. We have only 15 days. Time to start practising.

In the upper part of our elegant street, we shall be having a Coronation party, our fourth street fiesta. Unlike the previous three I won't be involved in the catering, which is a blessed relief. What would be suitable for such a celebration? Coronation chicken, perhaps? As ever, you're ahead of me. Before we look at the recipe, a little history.

To create a feast fit for a Queen, the nation turned to Rosemary Hume, founder of Le Cordon Bleu cookery school (London branch). She and colleague Constance Spry put their heads together. Spry went on to become a food writer. She was originally a florist. Their dish, originally known as Chicken Elizabeth, has become a classic. What, one wonders, inspired it?

Today, chicken might be thought a little prosaic for the centre piece of a banquet. It's difficult to credit that chicken was a luxury ingredient at that time. That ticks one box. At its most basic, Chicken Elizabeth involves covering the main ingredient with a lightly spiced, mayonnaise based sauce. So, perhaps the ladies were paying homage to the former might of Britain's colonial past, the days of the Raj? Or did they just nick an idea from a royal bash of a couple of decades earlier?

I give you Exhibit A from the menu for the Silver Jubilee of George V in 1935. Jubilee Chicken - chicken dressed with mayonnaise and curry powder. From 1953 onwards, imagination knew no bounds. Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee in 2002? Jubilee Chicken. 10 years later in 2012? Diamond Jubilee Chicken. This latter was created by Heston Blumenthal. According to the internet, the recipe was not released to the public; however the arrival of vats of liquid nitrogen suggests that the cooks in my street must have uncovered it.*

So, without ado, the classic. and a few suggestions by L to make it a bit lighter.

Ingredients (no point giving servings - will depend if you're serving as part of a buffet and, of course, the size of your chicken)

1 poached chicken (see below); quantity of Sauce Elizabeth (see below),


Strip the flesh from the cooked chicken (not forgetting the lovely bits on the underside, the oysters, as we know them.) The French delightfully name them the sot-y-laisse (only a fool would leave). When the meat is completely cool, mix it with the sauce and serve. Tsimples!

Be very careful with your hygiene, especially if using home made mayonnaise. Do NOT leave it in a warm place for any length of time.

But you want more detail? OK.

Poached chicken

Put the chicken, untrussed, in a pan with enough water to cover completely. Add a coarsely chopped onion, a coarsely chopped carrot and a coarsely chopped stick of celery. Throw in half a dozen or so peppercorns, black or white and, if you have some, a few sprigs of parsley, stalks and all. Bring the water to the boil, then simmer gently until the chicken is cooked. Prue Leith suggests 1½ hours which I think is too long. Jamie Oliver suggests about an hour, which is nearer the mark. The nice thing is that as you're going to pull it to bits, you can check. The legs and drumsticks should feel quite loose. If necessary, pull one off. You just need to ensure there are no pink bits.

Leave in the liquid until it's cool enough to handle, then drain. It's easier to strip the chicken when the carcasse is till warm. Remove all the meat, cut into bite size pieces or strips, then set aside to cool completely.

Sauce Elizabeth


1 small onion, finely chopped; veg oil, 2 tsp medium curry powder; small squeeze of tomato purée; 60ml red wine; 2 - 3 tsp apricot jam; 1 slice of lemon and 1 tsp lemon juice; 1 bay leaf; 300 ml mayonnaise and 40ml double cream, OR 170ml mayonnaise and 170ml plain yoghurt, OR 170ml mayonnaise plus 100ml plain yoghurt plus 70ml crème fraîche; s & p.


Cook the onion in a little veg oil until soft. Add the curry powder, and cook for another minute or two. Add the tomato purée, red wine, jam, lemon slice lemon juice and bay leaf, together with a very little water. Season. Bring to a boil and simmer for 7 - 8 minutes.

Remove the lemon slice and bay leaf, then push the mixture through a fine sieve. When cold, mix into your choice of mayo/cream/crème fraîche. I suggest you start with about two thirds of the mayo, and build up your mixture, tasting as you go. When, and only when, the chicken is completely cool, mix the two together.

Cheat's Tip

You can actually make a perfectly acceptable combination with just chicken and curry mayonnaise; however, if you are doing this, either use curry paste, as opposed to powder, or mix the curry powder with a tiny bit of oil before combining with the mayo. You will never get powder completely mixed in, and little bits are likely to catch the back of your throat.

Good luck, FD, LW and LB with your preparations for May 7. Just remember, no cream for Lesley please.

*Now readily available, Click here. Don't forget to allow plenty of time for the brining, and if you do manage to source the chardonnay vinegar, let me know where you found it.


  1. Robert Corrigan on 21st April 2023 at 10:46 am


  2. Janet Hood on 21st April 2023 at 6:07 pm

    Thanks Tom never made it with jam before. Missing a trick? Also I would let chicken cool down in stock to ensure its continued juiciness

    Have lots of fun on coronation day.

    • Tom Johnston on 21st April 2023 at 7:07 pm

      I think this is the original classic recipe, You can either have apricot jam or apricot puree (not sure about the difference). What do you use? I know some folk use mango chutney – think that would be good too. Lesley has made this many times. That which comes through the sieve is really strong. You just have to use your sense of taste to build the rest of it – but you knew that.

    • Michael Greenlaw on 21st April 2023 at 9:41 pm

      Sounds delicious, Tom.
      I’m sure you meant to say that (especially in the middle of a cost of living crisis) the water from the poached chicken be used as a stock and not just drained – as in going down the drain!

      • Tom Johnston on 22nd April 2023 at 7:20 am

        Absolutely. Ours is very nearly a zero waste kitchen.

  3. Liz on 22nd April 2023 at 3:46 pm

    Ohhhhh….apricot jam? Not sure about that at all. Sounds a bit sweeeeet to me. I’m going to add fresh chilli, I think. My version will be a post modern one. But then I’m a republican.

    • Tom Johnston on 22nd April 2023 at 6:16 pm

      Did you read the recipe? 2 tsp of apricot jam with onion, lemon, wine, tomato and curry. Sweet? That’s like saying a pinch of sugar in a tomato sauce will make it sweet. Fresh chilli? Post modern? Deconstructed next? Still, as long as there’s no cream we might risk it.

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