The name of coronation chicken actually contains a significant clue to the dish’s origins. It was for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 and the magnificent banquet that would help to commemorate the occasion that coronation chicken was invented. There is a theory that it was adapted from an earlier dish, created for the silver jubilee of Queen Elizabeth’s grandfather, King George V, called jubilee chicken. The dish is prepared with precooked and cooled chicken and is usually served cold.
In its original form, coronation chicken was a simpler dish than some current variations of the dish such as the Coronation Chicken recipe outlined by the Telegraph. This was largely due to the availability or otherwise of certain potential ingredients in post-war Britain, particularly exotic herbs and spices. Whole chickens were firstly poached in water then left to cool in the liquid to keep them moist and tender. The meat was then carefully picked from the bones in slightly smaller than bite sized pieces and mixed with curry powder, tomato paste, mayo and a few other simple spices. It was served with a side order of vegetable rice.
Coronation chicken today will often be a much grander affair, due both to the wider availability of particularly flavorsome spice ingredients and the development of cooking techniques in the intervening decades. Occasionally, coronation chicken is taken to such new levels as to make it all but unrecognisable from its original form. The chicken may even be fried or roasted rather than simply poached, while the basic curry powder may be substituted either for a homemade curry powder or paste. Nuts, dried fruits such as raisins, lemon or lime juice, mango chutney and green onions or scallions are further popular additions.
Coronation chicken as it is found in the supermarket sandwiches of today or in lower end of the scale delis by the tub is more likely to be closer to the original version as this means it is both quicker and less expensive to prepare. If you want to try making it at home, it is an excellent way of using up leftover roast chicken from dinner one night for lunch sandwiches the following day, given that the most basic ingredients can already be found in many refrigerators or larders. Try adding some salad greens to one slice of bread before spooning on the coronation chicken, scattering over some freshly chopped cilantro and crowning it with a second slice of bread, for a refreshingly different but simple meal for your family.