Offered as a prepared dish, as a filling for sandwiches or rejected in some variations in cookbooks, the “coronation chicken” – or “Queen Elizabeth Chicken” – is now an integral part of the UK culinary landscape.
“But it is not the same recipe […]only mayonnaise to which we add a little curry “, laughs Angela Wood, 89 years old, for these modern versions.
She was 19 when a student in the Winkfield area (near Windsor Castle) of Cordon Bleu culinary school was responsible for improving the recipe imagined by the institution’s manager, Constance Spry, who was to host the banquet for foreign celebrities after coronation ceremony, June 2, 1953.
Elizabeth II, 96, ascended the throne on 6 February 1952, when her father, King George VI, died, marking the beginning of a long unprecedented reign in the United Kingdom.
“It should have been a little spicy, but not too much” to please everyone. Another limitation, the dish had to be prepared in advance, i.e. cold, says Angela Wood.
As for the ingredients, they had to be available in the UK. Imported food remained limited while rationing had not yet been completely abolished.
The right balance
That’s why Angela Wood tackles the kitchen: “We were constantly cooking chicken,” adding or removing an ingredient. Until you find the right balance, explains the eight-year-old, pointing to the original recipe, published in an old edition of the Constance Spry Cookery Book, a well-known cookbook: boiled chicken with garnish bouquet and for sauce, cut onions grated, curry powder, tomato puree, red wine and lemon juice, added to mayonnaise and whipped cream, with apricot puree.
“It’s a ridiculous mix,” which, enjoyed in the early stages, “is so strong and terrifying,” she admits. “Hard to believe you did well.”
In the menu of that time, written in French, the dish was called “Poulet Reine Elizabeth”. Served to 350 foreign personalities with a rice salad garnished with peas and herbs, it is preceded by a tomato soup with tarragon and river trout, and then a strawberry biscuit. All washed with wine and champagne.
The excesses of life did not allow Angela Wood to become a professional, but she still prepares the famous recipe, with her daughter, when they receive.