Planning has viewers eating like queen

JUBILEE CELEBRATION: Something of a luxury 60 years ago in post-war Britain, fresh chickens, including those fed on corn, are now an affordable family favourite.
JUBILEE CELEBRATION: Something of a luxury 60 years ago in post-war Britain, fresh chickens, including those fed on corn, are now an affordable family favourite.

Ever wondered what goes into the royal tum? It is said that her majesty starts the day with toast and marmalade and a cup of Earl Grey. A frugal eater, she prefers plain English fare: roast beef, shepherd's pie, smoked haddock, bread and butter pudding. Nothing rich or spicy.

Surprisingly, then, on the day she was crowned, some 60 years ago, the young Queen Elizabeth sat down to cold chicken in a creamed curry sauce.

Coronation chicken is usually attributed to society florist and cook Constance Spry, who was all the rage at the time. While Spry did the flowers for the coronation, the dish was in fact created for the occasion by her friend Rosemary Hume, founder of Le Cordon Bleu cookery school in London.

Hume also taught at Spry's school of domestic science, where students were asked to cater for the 300-odd dignitaries invited to the official lunch on the big day.

The dish was not exactly new; an earlier version had been concocted for Elizabeth's grandfather, George V, to celebrate his Silver Jubilee.

Hume's recipe was published in newspapers ahead of time so the queen's subjects could partake of the same meal. In post-war Britain rationing still applied and chicken and dairy products were luxuries. Perhaps the "common people", after so many years of food restrictions and shortages, made do with what they had to hand.

Describing it as "Britain's first TV dinner", a social historian says Hume knew anyone with access to a television set would be glued to it all day.

To be a success, therefore, her dish had to be one that could be prepared in advance and eaten with a fork. I have adapted today's recipe from The Constance Spry Cookery Book, written by Spry and Hume and first published in 1956.

Serve with a rice salad; this one is pretty close to the original.


Poached chicken ingredients

2 small fresh chickens

1 carrot, chopped

half stick celery, chopped

1 bouquet garni

pinch salt

4 peppercorns

300ml white wine

Method: Put chickens in a casserole with remaining ingredients and enough water to just cover.

Bring to the boil.

Reduce to a gentle simmer, cover and poach for 40 minutes.

Leave to cool in the liquid for at least 2 hours then drain and set aside.

Curry sauce ingredients

1 Tbsp sunflower oil

half small onion, chopped

1 Tbsp mild curry powder

1 heaped tsp tomato puree

100ml red wine

100ml water

1 bay leaf

salt and freshly ground pepper

pinch sugar

2 slices lemon, plus squeeze of lemon juice

300g homemade or good mayonnaise

1-2 Tbsp apricot jam

50ml cream, lightly whipped

Method: Heat oil in a saucepan over a medium heat, add the onion and cook gently for 3-4 minutes.

Add curry powder and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add tomato puree, wine, water and bay leaf.

Bring to the boil, add salt, pepper, sugar, lemon slices and juice.

Simmer, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes, strain and leave to cool; remove lemon slices.

Add curry mix to the mayonnaise, a little at a time, then add apricot jam to taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in 2-3 Tbsp of the whipped cream.

Take half the sauce and mix with remaining whipped cream.

Remove meat from chickens and cut into bite-sized pieces.

Mix chicken with the creamier half of the curry sauce.

Arrange on a serving dish and coat with remaining sauce.


3 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp white wine vinegar

pinch salt

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

250g cooked long grain rice

200g cooked baby peas

half a cucumber, peeled and diced

2 handfuls chopped parsley

Method: Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, mustard and salt.

Tip rice and peas into a bowl, add cucumber, parsley and dressing and stir to combine.

The Southland Times