Crowned Coronation Chicken

In cooking, fusion has gone from being all the rage, to a bad word. A real f-word, you might say. I don’t know why that is, really, and it seems an awful shame. My whole life is about fusion, from the very beginning when my English mother met my Palestinian father. I am fusion. And so are some of the best dishes.

In fact, I would be challenged to name one ‘traditional’ dish that does not have some foreign element or influence.

Coronation Chicken, now a quintessentially British sandwich-filler, available in every café on every High Street in the country, started life as an Anglo-Indian dish created by Rosemary Hume for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953. The curry-like (but not so curry-like so as to offend any less-adventurous palates) concoction consisted of poached and shredded chicken in a delicate, nutty sauce served with rice. It bore little or no resemblance to the bright yellow chicken salad we know today.

Of course, I wasn’t around in 1953 and, even if I were, I doubt my fleeting friendship with Liz would have qualified me for inclusion on the guest list. My experience with Coronation Chicken has therefore been confined to the more common (in both senses of the word) variety. This seems to usually be made of shredded chicken, mayonnaise, curry powder and raisins, stuffed into sandwiches or baked potatoes (called ‘jacket’ potatoes here and a national lunchtime craze). In fact it’s so common that I’d never bothered to make it at home.

When I finally set myself the task, I was daunted by the recipes I found online. They all seemed to be re-hashes of the original, more elegant, version. No, no, no! That dish has since evolved (or regressed) and it was the contemporary, mass consumption, recipe I was after. The cheap ‘n cheerful, orangey-yellow lunchtime treat that is so uniquely British. And it had to be easy – because I’m lazy. I quickly realized that, short of canvassing the sandwich shops asking for their recipes, I was on my own.

My version uses leftover roasted chicken and lots of fruit and nuts. I cut the mayonnaise with crème fraîche and added turmeric, mainly for colour. I know you’ll think I’m just boasting, but it truly was scrumptious. I thought, too late, of adding grated fresh coconut (had some in the fridge) but I’d already done the photos and didn’t feel like re-shooting them. Did I mention how lazy I am?

Another challenge was deciding how to serve this. Having recently jump-started my neglected low-carb diet, neither sandwiches nor potatoes were options. I could have thrown it onto Ryvita, but at the last minute had a light bulb moment. I lined an empty half of mango skin with a nest of lamb’s lettuce and piled it high with the chicken. Finally, I ‘crowned’ it with more fresh mango. A golden crown for a coronation dish just seems appropriate, don’t you think?

It’s certainly very fitting with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (marking 60 years of her reign) being celebrated all over Britain this weekend. Sunday and Monday will see us all street party-hopping and undoubtedly sampling countless Victoria Sponges, Queen’s Drop Scones and Coronation Chicken, all while swilling Pimm’s cocktails.

Silver Jubilee, 1977

Golden Jubilee, 2002

(Jubilee images courtesy of The British Monarchy official website)

If I sound like a bit of a ‘pro’ at all this Jubilee party-going, by the way, that’s because this will be my third Jubilee celebration in Britain. The Golden (50th) Jubilee was in 2002, shortly after I moved here, and also I happened to be passing through with my mom and brother back in the summer of 1977, when the Brits were celebrating the Silver (25th) Jubilee.

My enduring memory of that earlier event was hiding with my brother under a table at a street party and reaching up to grab what we thought were curly potato chips out of a bowl. We stuffed a handful each into our mouths only to realize they were chilled butter curls. You’d think that would have cured my gluttony but, alas, a look back at my blog archives (and, ahem, jean size) would indicate otherwise.

Happy Jubilee Weekend everyone!

Crowned Coronation Chicken
Serves: 4
  • 2 Tbsp light mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp low-fat crème fraîche (or Greek-style yogurt)
  • 2 tsp chutney (mango or similar)
  • ½ tsp mild curry powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups (about 300 g) cooked and shredded chicken (skinless)
  • 1 medium stalk of celery, diced
  • Half a mango, finely diced
  • Handful of raisins
  • Handful of chopped almonds
  • To serve: A large handful of lamb’s lettuce and a spoonful of fresh diced mango to garnish.
  1. In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise, crème fraîche and chutney, then add the spices.
  2. Add in all the other ingredients, toss until coated and serve on a bed of the lettuce, garnished with more mango.
1. I think I mentioned (twice) above that I’m a lazy cook. I will never poach a chicken especially for this recipe, as is suggested by the original recipe creator and her followers. But I WILL make this every time I have leftover chicken from a roast or rotisserie. If you haven’t any leftover, and are lazy like me, then go buy some cooked chicken at the store. 2. To get the mango flesh out without damaging the skin (if you’d like to use it as I did above) cut along the pit so you get two large halves, then gently score the flesh in a hash pattern without piercing the skin. Invert them so the squares stick out (see photo above) and just cut them off. 3. There are so many things I could have put in here. I mentioned fresh coconut, but also apples, dried apricots and even coriander/cilantro (which I actually would never use since I hate it). Make it your own by putting in what you love and leaving out what you don’t. 4. The inclusion of all those fruits, nuts and celery made this more of a salad than simply a sandwich filler (although my son has it in a sandwich in his school lunch today). If you’re not a carbophobe, you could add cooked pasta or rice to the mix, and make a cold salad of it to serve at your next picnic or BBQ.