Constance Spry’s Original Coronation Chicken

The popularity of Coronation Chicken- like the monarchy- has had its ups and downs over the years. Tom Parker Bowles is not a fan, tweeting to his followers: “Coronation chicken…isn’t a dish of celebration, rather punishment for sins of a past life”. In retort, Luke Honey of The Greasy Spoon Blog takes us back to the original recipe and finds much to admire in an old classic…

Dear old Constance Spry, the trendy Fifties florist and founder of the Winkfield Cookery School near Ascot, “invented” the dish for the Queen’s coronation in 1953, and I expect she’s now turning in her grave. Incidentally, a very similar dish (chicken bound in curriedmayonnaise, was created for George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935. This was called Jubilee Chicken).

I’m prepared to risk my reputation (what remains of it) and state publicly that I like Coronation Chicken. The Constance Spry version, that is, not the dubious bastardised version we all remember from 1970’s buffet parties of times past: left-over chicken, coated in mass produced mayonnaise flavoured with a smidgen of uncooked curry powder. The Spry version is, indeed, a very different beast (if slightly strange to modern sensibilities) and includes, not only apricots, but- gasp of amazement- red wine, which is simmered, bizarrely, with curry paste and tomato purée to form a reduction. Here’s the original recipe:

Constance Spry’s Original Coronation Chicken

Ingredients (Serves 8):

2.3kg (5lb) chicken
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small, finely chopped onion
1 tbsp curry paste
1 tbsp tomato purée
100ml red wine
1 bay leaf
1/2 lemon juice
4 finely chopped apricot halves
300ml (1/2 pint) Mayonnaise
100ml (4 fl oz) whipping cream
Salt and pepper
Watercress to garnish

1) Skin the chicken and cut into small pieces and grill it until cooked.
2) In a small saucepan, heat the oil, add the onion and cook for about three
minutes, until softened.
3) Add the curry paste, tomato purée, wine, bay leaf and lemon juice.
4) Simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes until well reduced.
5) Strain and leave to cool.
6) Purée the chopped apricot halves in a blender or food processor or through a
7) Beat the cooled sauce into the mayonnaise with the apricot purée.
8 ) Whip the cream to stiff peaks and fold into the mixture.
9) Season, adding a little extra lemon juice if necessary.
10) Fold in the chicken pieces, garnish with watercress and serve.


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4 thoughts on “Constance Spry’s Original Coronation Chicken

    June 4, 2012 at 15:39

    I’m afraid I cheated a little for my version of Coronation Chicken, Luke. I found a delicious sauce, which makes a perfect dish when mixed with creme fraiche, diced dried apricots and raisins – and sprinkled with toasted flaked almonds. I’m sure you’ll disapprove, but it tasted yummy and was much complimented.

      June 4, 2012 at 17:23


      Crikey, makes me sound like a martinet. I haven’t come across Sussex Valley’s splendid Coronation Sauce before…whoever designed the packaging deserves a medal

  2. Worm
    June 4, 2012 at 16:18

    my frau returned victorious from the tesco metro this lunchtime all pleased with her first purchase of coronation chicken, in one of those sandwich fillers pots. However further inspection revealed that it was in fact ‘Moroccan chicken’ which is more spicy. All the same, I have paid respects to our glorious queen by eating the entire pot in one go

    June 4, 2012 at 23:03

    I don’t have a reputation to protect so I can state openly that I do in fact like the bastardised version of Coronation Chicken that we all remember from 1970s parties.

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