“One would not venture to serve, to a large number of guests of varying and unknown tastes, a curry dish in the generally accepted sense of this term,” states Constance Spry at the beginning of her recipe for Poulet Reine Elizabeth. So Spry and Hume concocted a dish of poached chicken dressed in a creamy mayonnaise sauce with a hint of curry for the visiting dignitaries (by Spry’s own admission the curry flavour was so delicate that she doubted many of the guests would guess what the flavouring was).
Coronation Chicken as it is popularly known has endured over the decades. In the Oxford Companion to Food Alan Davidson remarks that it “has proved remarkably persistent as a menu item, never in sophisticated restaurants, but otherwise popping up all over the place.” Today it often appears as a garish sandwich or jacket potato filling with a pervasive flavour of undercooked curry powder.
I am acutely aware of the fact that I will be joining the countless bloggers and food magazines who will be featuring their own versions of this dish. Some will try to replicate Spry’s original dish. I’ve tested Spry’s recipe which includes red wine, cream and apricots as well as mayonnaise and curry powder. It isn’t unpleasant but it is exceedingly rich. What I hope I’ve created is a lighter version which delivers a punch. Let me know what you think.
Coconut Poached Chicken in a Creamy Curry Dressing
To poach the chicken
- 4 x skinless and boneless chicken breasts
- 500ml coconut water
- ½ peeled onion
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 star anise
- 2 slices of fresh ginger
- 1 stick of lemongrass, crushed
For the curry sauce
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2cm piece fresh ginger, chopped
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp garam masala
- ¼ – ½ tsp cayenne pepper (the idea is to add some warmth, not to blow your head off)
- Juice of at least ½ lemon (you may want to add a little more to adjust the seasoning to your taste)
- 250ml coconut cream
- 2 tbsp mango chutney
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place the chicken breasts in a large, shallow saucepan or heatproof casserole with the poaching ingredients. Slowly bring to the boil then reduce the heat so that the liquid is barely simmering. Cover and cook for 20 – 30 mins turning the breasts a couple of times until the chicken is cooked. Remove the chicken and allow to cool. Strain the poaching liquid through a sieve and reserve.
- Place the onion, garlic, ginger, garam masala and cayenne pepper for the dressing in a coffee grinder. Process to a smooth paste. Heat the oil over a medium heat then gently fry the spice paste until soft and fragrant. Place in a bowl then add the coconut cream, mango chutney, lemon juice and seasoning. Mix thoroughly. If the dressing seems lumpy (i.e. with bits of mango from the chutney) you could always blitz it in a food processor or with a hand blender.
- Chop the cooked chicken into bite sized chunks. Combine with the curry dressing and refrigerate overnight. Serve with Coconut Rice Salad and Mango Salsa.
Coconut Rice Salad
This salad packs a bit more oomph and makes a lovely accompaniment to the chicken. Fresh coconut flesh is available in the fruit and vegetable section of many supermarkets.
- 225g white basmati rice
- 500ml chicken poaching liquid (make up with hot water if necessary) or chicken stock
- 1 tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil
- 1 tsp salt
For the coconut chutney
- 100g fresh coconut flesh
- Small bunch of fresh coriander
- 2 Spring onions
- 1 – 2 green chillies, deseeded
- Juice of 1- 2 limes
- Pinch of salt
For cooking rice you can’t beat Delia Smith’s method which I have adapted here.
- Bring the poaching liquid or stock to the boil.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan or lidded frying pan. Gently fry the rice for a minute or two until thoroughly coated with the oil.
- Reduce the heat to a low temperature then add the stock to the rice and salt. The mixture will splutter but will eventually calm down. Cover and cook for 15 minutes (do not remove the lid). Turn the heat off then leave for a further 5 minutes before transferring to a bowl to cool.
- For the chutney, blend all of the ingredients in a food processor until you have a rough paste. Stir into the cooled rice. Adjust the seasoning to taste
- ½ large mango, peeled and chopped, into 5mm dice
- 3 tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped into 5mm dice
- 1 – 2 small green chillies, finely chopped
- 2 spring onions, finely chopped
- Juice of 1 lime
- Salt and pepper
- Combine all of the ingredients, initially only using 1 chilli. Test the seasoning and add more seasoning and chilli as desired.