Adam Edwards: Chicken's crowning glory
PUBLISHED: 00:19 19 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:56 20 February 2013
'Let's celebrate the Diamond Jubilee with a dish fit for a Queen'
Adam Edwards: Chickens crowning glory
Lets celebrate the Diamond Jubilee with a dish fit for a Queen
This is an important year for celebrations. There is the London Olympics and the centenary of Charles Dickens birth, to say nothing of the marking of the half-century since the release of the Beatles first single Love Me Do and the 50th birthday of both the cheese and onion crisp and the first silicon breast implant. For good or ill it is safe to say that these many and varied commemorations will not give rise to a general knees-up in the Cotswolds in 2012, for local links to these events are at best tenuous.
Of course it is true that on Wednesday, May 23, the Olympic Torch will swing through Cirencester and Cheltenham and I am sure much obligatory cheering will accompany it. And it may be that some of those who muck about with horses and others who cycle about our hills in day-glo lycra are busy training to win gold at those games.
And it is also true that the village of Corsham was the inspiration for Charles Dickens novel The Pickwick Papers and furthermore, it is claimed, he borrowed the name from Moses Pickwick, a coachman who was born in nearby Pickwick, lived in the Hare and hounds Inn and ran coaches between Bath and London. It is also worth noting that the Beatles performed their first live show in front of a paying audience outside the north-west of England at the Subscription Rooms in Stroud on March 31, 1962, seven months shy of their chart debut.
And I have no doubt there are many noted women in our area who are most grateful to plastic surgeons Thomas Cronin and Frank Gerow from the University of Texas for, that same year, inventing the artificial Bristol (although the recent news about faulty implants may curb some of the celebrations).
But these flimsy connections to this years great events are not worthy of bunting and flags. However there is one anniversary for which the drum can seriously be banged in this neck of the woods the Queens Diamond Jubilee. This is because the Cotswolds is home to the Royal Triangle. It is where the Queens two eldest children have their country homes, where her grandchildren party and play polo and where many of her senior courtiers live. In fact Gloucestershire, and in particular the Cotswolds, has always seemed to me to be more royalist that its near dyed-inthe-purple neighbour Royal Berkshire.
And so the Diamond Jubilee is the one anniversary we can celebrate to the full in the Cotswolds. And to give the Jubilee street parties and village green picnics that extra something we should serve Coronation Chicken. The society florist Constance Spry invented the dish 60 years ago to celebrate the Queens arrival onto the throne. It was served at the coronation banquet and subsequently became a favourite with the public, an exotic confection for a nation that had spent a decade under rationing.
One commentator described it as perfect for a large number of guests of varying and unknown tastes. Coronation chicken appealed to a Britain that was not quite ready for the ready meal, wrote Britains original TV celebrity chef Fanny Craddock. It was easy to make but it still gave the cook something to do. It offered the right blend of convenience and culinary skill.
The dish, as Spry envisioned it, consisted of boned poached chicken with a bit of curry powder, red wine, mayonnaise and apricot puree, finished off with a couple of tablespoons of whipped cream. Sadly it fell out of vogue. It is only seen nowadays in a bastardised version oozing from ready-made sandwiches called chicken mayonnaise. It has been eclipsed not only by fast food and sneering modern chefs who lumped it in the same gastronomic canon as corned beef fritters, macaroni cheese and brown soup, but also by the barbecue.
Sadly the majority of plans for Jubilee parties will feature a barbecue. It is a mystery why this should be so. The British in general cannot barbecue. It is an art as foreign to the average Englishman as Sunday roast is to a Californian or toad in the hole is to a Chinaman. It is not just that the weather is unsuitable in this country for open air cooking but as most of us only attempt it two or three times a year we are amateurs at it. The food is burnt or raw, smothered in sweet sauce and never on time. A pink drumstick coated in a sickly concoction from the Deep South remains a very poor relation to Contance Sprys crowned poultry.
So lets put back Coronation Chicken on our al fresco menu. Lets leave the breast implant lovers and cheese and onion crisp enthusiasts to celebrate their anniversaries alone. In the Cotswolds we will show the rest of the country how to commemorate 60 years on the throne with a picnic from yesteryear.