Food & drink

Chef Angela Hartnett: Mutton curry should be the new coronation chicken

Angela Hartnett co-hosts the podcast Dish with Nick Grimshaw (Howard Shooter/PA)
Prudence Wade, PA

Chef Angela Hartnett immediately knows what she’d pick as the defining dish for the King’s reign: mutton curry.

Like coronation chicken invented for Queen Elizabeth II’s crowning in 1953, Hartnett would go for a spicy dish using a lesser-known cut for Charles.

“He’s always been a massive advocate for mutton, so I would do a mutton curry,” she told the PA news agency.

“Curry is one of the most popular cuisines we have – our culture is made up of various different cuisines, so I think a mutton curry would be quite a good one.”

Angela Hartnett
Angela Hartnett co-hosts the podcast Dish with Nick Grimshaw (Howard Shooter/PA)

Mutton is considered the more ethical choice. Shoppers buy large amounts of lamb but there isnt much demand for the older animal so farmers struggle to sell the meat – although it’s perfectly edible, and delicious, it often goes to waste.

“You treat it exactly like lamb,” Hartnett explained. “It’s a great part of food sustainability – using older lamb, not always having spring lamb. You treat it that same, but probably cook it a little bit longer.

“The good thing with curries is you can marinate the night before, and it tends to tenderise.”

Kensington Palace has already released a celebratory recipe for the coronation – a quiche dish made with spinach, broad beans and tarragon. Great British Bake Off judge Dame Prue Leith has sampled the quiche, and told Hartnett it was “lovely” while recording the podcast Hartnett co-hosts with Nick Grimshaw, Dish.

Hartnett can see why it’s a good choice. “One, it’s seasonal. Two, it can be made vegetarian, which I think given that it’s trying to be as inclusive as possible probably is quite a smart thing to do – and it’s something everyone likes if it’s done really well,” she said.

The coronation quiche is intended to be a successor to coronation chicken.
So why has the curried chicken dish has enjoyed such long-lasting appeal – even 70 years later?

“Ultimately, it’s really tasty,” Hartnett said.

“When it’s done really nicely, there’s something lovely about that mild curry flavour with the raisins and the chicken that works really well together. It is that simple.”

And there’s a reason recipes are used to mark momentous public occasions like this, with Hartnett mentioning the “democratic” nature of food.

“Everyone has to eat – we all eat to various degrees, but we all need food to live. It’s very democratic, in a way. We all eat differently and there are degrees of finance that allow us to eat what we eat.

“It’s very communal, food. It’s not just about having a plate of food – it’s who you eat it with, where you eat it. I think that’s the big thing Covid taught us – it’s about all the suppliers, looking after your neighbours, helping your family. Food always does that, it brings people together.”

Food will bring many people together on May 6, with coronation parties taking place all over the world. If you’re catering a party, there are a few things you can do to make it run smoothly.

Hartnett recommends making the food “picnic-driven”, and choosing dishes that “last for a few hours” without spoiling.

“I think a great sausage roll, scotch eggs, that sort of thing. Scones are good. You can do a cold chicken coronation salad – something like that will hold while you’re waiting around.”

Hartnett’s advice? “Keep it simple. Don’t try and overcomplicate. Don’t try and do stuff you’ve never tried before, so you don’t know whether it works or not. Be aware of how many people you’re catering for, and get people to help. The great thing about the coronation – it’s a party.”

Hartnett will be celebrating with friends up in Scotland on coronation day, “About an hour from Balmoral, so we’re in a royal place”.

Series 3 of Dish from Waitrose & Partners, hosted by Nick Grimshaw and Angela Hartnett, is available on all podcast providers.