Sunday, 16 September 2012

Coronation Chicken

All you need for Coronation chicken - just add one medium sized bird!

Coronation chicken, the stuff buffets are made of... at least in my opinion. I don't think you can really call a buffet 'good' unless there's some of this around. Usually shop bought, I've always thoroughly enjoyed it, but it did make me wonder if this beautiful sandwich filler is that good when pre-packed and processed to high heavens, how amazing must it be if you make it yourself?

I was shocked and somewhat disappointed to learn that one of my favourite colleagues had never eaten coronation chicken. Fortunately for her, I was there to right that wrong. Being part of a team that never misses an opportunity to hold a buffet lunch, the perfect opportunity arose as the lovely Sophie was going on leave to become a married person! A theme had been decided around 'English Garden', so I jumped on the chance to make coronation chicken. I'd been dying to try out Felicity Cloake's perfect version although somewhat apprehensively as it seemed a lot of work was to be involved, and I wasn't mistaken...

For the recipe, please click the link to Ms.Cloake's column, and use this blog entry as an illustrated guide :)

The first step involves poaching a whole chicken. I used a bird that was around 1.25kg, and let it poach for what felt like foreverrrrr. I was slightly naughty and omitted the saffron, as this dish was already turning out to be as expensive as fillet steak topped with foie gras! We also didn't have any cinnamon sticks (which I thought we did) so used cinnamon powder instead. I don't think this makes a massive difference as the chicken is lathered in unctuous curry-mayo sauce anyway.

Not particularly attractive, but then I imagine most of us wouldn't be if feathered & plunged into boiling water either!

After letting it cool, I picked it apart (I love doing that!) and started on making the sauce. It was all fairly straight forward but there are quite a lot of ingredients involved, which led to me also forgetting to add any of the Worcester sauce (despite having neatly lined it up next to my other ingredients as seen above!). I was also nervous about toasting the curry powder as I have a habit of getting distracted and letting things like this to burn, so I usually leave it to Jamie. However, I followed my nose and as soon as I started coughing everywhere after inhaling the curry powder's er, fragant aromas, I took it off the heat, and it certainly did the trick. Do be careful with this bit though as the smell will overpower the kitchen for at least twenty minutes.

I felt that going to the effort of poaching a whole chicken and making the sauce more-or-less from scratch warranted the omittance of homemade mayonnaise, and used trusty Hellman's instead. I'm sure it would be fantastic if you did use the real stuff. (Jamie then decided to make homemade mayo the week after, grr!).

Once all the ingredients are mixed together, and cover the chicken you're supposed to refrigerate and top with toasted almonds before serving. As I made this the night before in order to bring in to work the following day, I toasted the almonds then and left them in the fridge overnight with it. I didn't find this mattered really, but was really pleasantly surprised at the difference toasted almonds make - they really enhance the flavour of the dish and introduce a nice bit of crunchy texture to the dish.

Tubbed up and ready for action!
I think this blog post is here to serve as a warning for those of us who aren't lucky enough to have a job which involves testing various recipes of the same dish (jealous, me?). Even though the dish is relatively straightforward to make, it does take a lot of time - I reckon at least an hour is involved in the prep, and then 1-1.5 hours poaching time. By the end of it, I was regretting my decision to home make this classic British dish, and was ready to throw the towel in and not even bother with those damned almonds. However, on presenting it at work the next day, I took it all back. The response I received was fantastic and everyone really enjoyed it. This version is much better than anything you'll buy at a deli or supermarket: toasting the curry powder really does add more depth of flavour, and the toasted almonds on top are a fantastic touch. Even though this recipe calls for poaching a whole chicken, I'm sure if you had some leftovers from Sunday lunch, that would work just as well and remove a lot of the time involved. I think it would also be great as a canape, and served mine in little lettuce boats a la Waitrose!