As I watch my Coronation Sussex chickens grow, I keep on thinking of the Coronation Chicken recipe I used to make a few years ago and wonder whether there’s any relationship between the Coronation Sussex chickens I am growing and ‘Coronation Chicken’… The Sussex has always been a dual purpose utility breed, suitable for both eggs and as meat for the table but could the recipe’s origins have anything to do with this breed? (Not that I’m planing on using any of these birds for such an experiment – they are far too rare but it would be interesting to know of the history behind the recipe and how it got its name).
Looking around for a recipe, I came across the Readers Digest page on Chicken Recipes which has a Coronation chicken recipe listed amongst a number of other interesting chicken recipes but it was actually an a press release from Buckingham Palace that gave me the answer about the history of the origins. It seems that the original Coronation chicken was invented for foreign guests who were being entertained after the Coronation ceremony for Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Constance Spry, (a florist who also helped with floral arrangements on the day of the Coronation) proposed a recipe that used cold chicken pieces in a curry cream sauce with a well-seasoned dressed salad of rice, green peas and mixed herbs. Her recipe won the approval of the Minister of Works and since that day, the recipe has been known as Coronation Chicken.
Herbs and spices were rare after the war so the recipe was very basic. These days, recipes contain a number of added ingredients such as almonds, mango and raisons and often use fresh herbs such as corriander or mint and is more popular as a sandwhich filling than a cold dish.
The two are therefore unrelated. Coronation Sussex chickens came before the recipe – They were created for the Coronation of King Edward VIII in 1936 (that never actually happend since he he abdicated) and his younger brother became King George VI. Both were created for a Coronation though! Jubilee chicken was apparently first invented for the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935… but that’s another story for another post on another day!