Coronation Chicken (The original 70’s recipe)

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While  one of my friend was waiting to take up my place as a trainee nurse, she spent some months working as a waitress in a hotel near Bedford. The proprietor had made his money through copywriting; loving words, he liked nothing better than to entertain both staff and customers with his quick wit. At the time, everyone seemed to be reading Mervyn Peake; as the building was not unlike Gormenghast – built for a rich family on the same sort of lines as a mini St Pancras Station – Harmer declared himself to be Lord Groan, while his daughter was Fuschia, and Martin the barman was Flay. Bob the chef took his role as Swelter rather too seriously – wearing a bloodied apron, he would wave his meat cleaver around, in a way that was genuinely alarming.

If a customer complained about the food, Harmer would remove it to the kitchen and taste it. He would then stride back into the dining room, and say that he – this was the 70s – the complainant was invariably a he – had been quite wrong – the dish was absolutely delicious. Harmer would then ask the client to leave. And when someone dared to write in the visitors book ‘not impressed,’ he wrote in large letters beside the entry ‘Neither were we!’ But I don’t remember anyone complaining about Bob’s Coronation Chicken which he produced whenever there was a wedding. Great bowls would be filled with the mixture, served with rice salad, and lots of fizzy white wine.

Coronation Chicken was invented over 60 years ago, and it has stood the test of time. Here is a recipe from the 1970s, which I found in my friend mother’s notebook. I have adapted it slightly, by substituting yoghurt for double cream.

Coronation Chicken


  • I large chicken
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 1 carrot
  • Bouquet garni

For the sauce:

  • I tablespoon oil
  • I medium onion
  • 1 dessertspoonful of curry powder
  • i teaspoon tomato puree
  • 4 fluid oz red wine
  • Half a can of tinned apricots drained and pureed.
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 200 mls mayonnaise
  • 200 mls Greek yoghurt


  • Put the chicken in a large pan along with the peppercorns, carrot and bouquet garni, and fill with cold water until covered. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for around an hour and half, until thoroughly cooked. Remove from the pan and leave to cool.

Curry sauce

  • Heat the oil in a saucepan. peel and finely chop the onion and fry until soft. Add curry powder and cook for a further few minutes, to bring out the flavour. Stir in the red wine, tomato puree lemon juice. and water. Bring to a simmer and cook for around 5 minutes. Draw off the heat and let cool.
  • Put apricots, curry sauce, and mayonnaise in a blender, then stir in the yoghurt.
  • Cut the chicken into manageable pieces then stir in the curry mixture. Leave in the fridge for an hour or so for the chicken to absorb the flavours.
  • Serve with basmati rice and green salad.

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