Friday, 2 September 2011

Coronation chicken sauce - BEST EVER

So. First holiday as a family. DONE. It was sort of ridiculous. In London, I have a bit of help during the week so I can drive randomly around town playing very loud music and screaming intermittently. But in Sussex there was no-one. Although my husband is a terrifically hands-on kind of guy, it wasn't a situation where I could shout "Bye!" at the door and piss off for two hours.

And it does concentrate the mind. I did spend rather a lot of time thinking about why people have children. Why? I howled this question particularly loudly to myself in my head as I fed a damp, bored and miserable Kitty a bottle in the pouring rain, hiding under a tree in the grounds of Petworth House, which we'd visited because you've got to do something between 2pm and 6pm other than singing "Row Row Row Your Boat" and looking at the clock, or you'll go mad.

Why? It's just so stupid. There you are, having a perfectly nice time and then you completely fuck your whole life up. For ages. I have become one of those people who devours anything written by anyone who is either desperate to have a baby or by someone who regrets not having had children. I can live on that shit for a week.

I always come to the conclusion - as I think everyone does - that the whole sorry business is all just selfish. For example, by having children I hope to achieve two things:

1) To go home. I want so badly to be at home again, in my bedroom with my stuff and my sisters around and my mum downstairs and my dad behind a newspaper somewhere. Adult life frightens me. I don't like things like clubbing very much, or achieveing things in an office environment, or going to smart parties, or acting on the spur of the moment. I just want to go home and potter about. I really like my parents, they are really nice people. I never had a yearning to get out and forge my way in the world. My parents had to evict me at 25. And because I can't go home (my little sister has taken over my old bedroom) the closest thing I can do is make a duplicate, an offshoot like a spider plant, and cross my fingers that it will, somehow, like a metaphorical Dr Sam Beckett, Quantum Leap me back.  

2) To have the life my mother has now. God my mum has a great time. Four daughters, none of who turned out to have a drug problem or decided to move permanently halfway across the world, (I always think that says something), who each ring her for a major gossip at least once a week, who deliver her grandchildren she can fuss over - then hand back - and bring to our house life. Life.

When we were little there was an apocryphal tale about my mother leaving next-eldest sister in the bath and she "nearly drowned". With the poisonous cruelty that little children are sometimes capable of, we always used to hold this up as an example of my mother's blatant imperfection. 

I remembered this story the other day when I left Kitty propped up with cushions on the sofa for a few minutes to fetch something. The thing I had not realised is that when it happened, my mother's first husband, the father of next-eldest and eldest sister, would have been either dying or already dead from leukemia. My mother would have been about 34.  And for a long time, until she met my father, she was all alone. With two small children. Of course she left next-eldest in the bath for a second or two! Eldest sister was probably screaming. Or there was a hammering on the door. Or she smelt burning. Or maybe she just needed to get a towel. And there was no-one else there.

So to have a full house, to have people there, is all my mother wants. And she is wise for it. As I hardly have any friends, and have never been able to do that thing where the few friends I have just come and hang out in my house, there is no question of having some kind of modern "urban" family with lots of glamorous homosexuals scattered about. If I am going to have any sort of family life, I am going to have to make one myself. Literally grow one. And there's no easy way of doing it.
To misquote Madonna: There are no shortcuts to being a family.* So occasionally you just have to fucking suck it up.

As it happens, there are no shortcuts to making a brilliant Coronation Chicken sauce. You can do a pretty grim one with curry powder and mayonnaise and raisins but it's not very nice.

A really serious one was brought round for me by Julia Churchill and it disappeared so quickly and I was so dazed from 4 weeks' solid childcare that it didn't cross my mind to take a photo. And I certainly haven't had, like, four seconds to myself to re-create it. So you're just going to have to do without a snap and simply take my word, on faith, that it's out of this world. Which is it. Really fantastic.

(NB: I am going to the countryside this weekend to see next-eldest sister - who didn't drown - and she has a glut of damsons. So in order to make it up to you, I will take a lot of whimsical pictures everyone can feel all autumnal about.)

I emailed Julia for the recipe and this is what came back. I always think it's best to let people deliver recipes in their own words and these are hers.

"Finely chop an onion and cook slowly till very dark. Add in spices - quite a lot of mustard seed, black onion seed, pepper, cardomom, (spelling?), tumeric, cumin, coriander seed, fennel seed, chilli flakes (loads. I have decided quite recently that food should hurt from time to time), teaspoon of curry powder for that familiar note, tiny bit cinnamon and clove - almost not there. Cook it. Let it cool and mix it with mayonnaise and [mango] chutney and squeeze in some lemon juice if it's cloying. Salt. Chopped coriander at the end. Oooo. Was there anything else? I think that's it.


xxx"





*"There are no shortcuts to being Madonna".

36 comments:

  1. Coronation chicken; the food of the retro Gods.

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  2. Oh god I LOVE coronation chicken and have never made it so am thrilled to see this. I grew up eating it in Officer's Messes on Sundays and at friends houses for buffet lunches (very retro)so can finally recreate it for myself. Hurrah!

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  3. Hello Esther, I have been reading your blog for months now & it is my very favourite - I've never felt compelled to comment before but I HAD to today after reading this bit:

    "To go home. I want so badly to be at home again, in my bedroom with my stuff and my sisters around and my mum downstairs"

    It strikes such a chord with me as essentially I feel like this ALL THE TIME . My mum and sisters are in Ireland and I'm in London. Glad I am not the only one for whom pottering around near or in the company of my family pretty much constitutes the ideal life!

    PS your recipes are always excellent, too - I have made several things thanks to your prompting! (e.g. Jamie's funny little pan-pizza thing, which is now pretty much my fallback Friday dinner) xx

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  4. I really admire your honesty (and recipes) - friend has got an 18 month old daughter - she works full time and has no help and husband is useless. She is 44 and feels mostly just sick with stress. But she doesn't want to just stay at home with baby even if they could afford it so really no options available. They had such a lovely life before and I look at her now and just wonder why ...

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  5. I am quite convinced we are the same person, and that can only be a good thing.

    I do love a coronation chicken anything so will give this a go.

    Also, you condoned my Krispy Kreme breakfast last week, so nothing bad can be said about you.

    xxx

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  6. You had me until "...decided to move permanently halfway across the world, (I always think that says something)"

    Yes, it says that this Canadian, living halfway round the world, cannot stand Toronto, and just prefers the insanity that is Glasgow. Nothing to do with my lovely Mom.

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  7. I love you for being so honest! I find myself thinking similar thoughts when left alone for more than half a shift with the baby! (ie: What on earth was I thinking?!!!!! The rest of the world is barmy!)
    Babies can be more than a bit boring, hence why I think we look forward to dinner so much more!

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  8. O Jennifer I apologise, sorry. Yes that was quite bitchy of me.

    Esther

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  9. you know i've always loved you but the phrase: 'like a metaphorical Dr Sam Beckett, Quantum Leap me back' has made me love you just that little bit more... I couldn't give two figs about you whinging about being a parent... you get to sleep next to Giles Coren on a regular basis and that's good enough for this glamorous homosexual... x

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  10. Well SOMEONE has got to whinge properly about being a parent. None of this "Oh but then she smiled and it made it all worthwhile." Because you know, sometimes? IT DOESN'T.

    E

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  11. Where are the mysterious acronyms you're complaining about on Twitter? Everyone is commenting in proper sentences and everything!

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  12. Then I don't think that you can see everyone who @s me. Also a few come through on email.

    E

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  13. When are you going to write a book? You have more than enough material in this blog alone. Or am I being dim and you already have? If not can you? Please?

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  14. I have wanted to go home for more than 50 years. I still don't feel grown up.

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  15. you know where the recipe says "was there anything else?". Just in case there are any recipe pedants (like my husband or Julian Barnes) reading; you do have to add chicken.

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  16. If I may counter-pedant - the recipe states it is for Coronation chicken SAUCE, not Coronation chicken.

    Does everyone hate me now. I mean, even more than usual.

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  17. I have hardly any friends either, so I know what you mean, I've never had anyone who's my friend just suddenly show up, except one time when a friend of mine delivered something to me - it was porridge. And as soon as they delivered it, they were gone.

    Very good blog post, by the way. :)

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  18. mercifully i had noticed that! but by living so long with a pedant, i have a radar for the pitfalls. they would read that recipe and write a shopping list and forget that the main objective is to eat chicken. no, that's not true, they'd start sweating at the lack of precise instructions and need to go for a wee lie down.

    can't be too careful you know.

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  19. There's lots of people who have children and never have help, can never leave waving a cheery 'bye!' I don't know why I continue to read you - you're so infuriating sometimes. I know you won't approvd this comment but hopefully you'll at least reflect on the rather comfortable bubble you find yourself in.

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  20. It's hard. Help or no. It's one long personal battle - a bit like Everest.

    Then you get to the top : )

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  21. Ah, sorry, I thought you meant your blog traffic was full of people talking about DH and DS and how you are so PFB about your DD... :-)

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  22. Ha! I am 27 and often feel like I am still a teenager, and still growing up.. I am sure you are too! I really love your posts, I don't even read it for the food anymore. Thank god you are not a 'Goop' type blog. That you are honest is great :) I am sure it is terrifying at times.. Often boring,. And amazing at others. Like everything in life. Let me put it this way. If I was your kid and reading this as an adult, I would be very proud of you! :) Keep sharing, and infuriating, and bubble on, like all of us do! xxo

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  23. My sister has a 22 month old and another due in 6 weeks... Enough said eh ?

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  24. Meh, what's wrong with a bit of selfish? Take it from me, nobody thanks you for being the toothless childless old crone at the end of the street. In fact, they seem to shun me.
    And also, your mother sounds rather wonderful. I've heard that being wonderful in this way is hereditary which bodes rather well for you and Kitty.

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  25. I am so so fond of coronation chicken as it was always the best seller for us at the open air theatre . You can imagine getting a bit bored making it day in day out for many summers, but actually I never tired of it and still LOVE it!
    My secret addition was a dollop of apricot jam, sounds weird but works.
    Never feel guilty about going off for time on your own, I don't. It's what keeps me sane & connected to life outside of babies/kids....:}

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  26. I love you, Ester! As always, you make me laugh AND provide awesome recipes!

    xo jenny

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  27. Love your blog, Esther. Always hilarious and always insightful. I always feel you speak for me and I have buddies who say the same. I felt so deflated by our first family holiday - trying to escape the rain and entertain a small baby in cornwall - pah! Parenting is relentless and monotonous in equal measure abd boo hiss to anyone who makes you feel bad for saying it out loud xxx

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  28. Esther, I'll come and hang out at your house. And I'll look after the baby. Just make me coffee and cook for me. Ok? Great.

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  29. Best post ever. I love your writing; please don't ever stop! Also really enjoy all the baby musings and family talk... Due in 10 weeks and starting to freak out. GAHH!! Any top tips?

    Veronica x

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  30. veronica... I will get into trouble for saying this but my top tip is to get someone to help you at night. I had a night nanny to help me get Kitty sleeping through and she saved my life. I will now get 4,000 emails telling me what a spolit cow I am. Yes, we could afford it. But if we couldn't I would have taken out a loan for it or sold the car. There is nothing more important than sleep. Nothing else matters xx

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  31. People who write you emails or nasty comments moaning that you have help are just sooo jealous. Who cares! If you've can afford it, go for it!

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  32. I prefer to think that no one has friends who come over just to hang out and that the whole idea is a myth perpetuated by television shows. How annoying would it be if you knew someone who would just show up unexpectedly at any hour and expect you to entertain them?

    Of course, this in turn could be a lie I tell myself because the only times I've ever unexpectedly relaxed at a friends house was when I was too hung over to leave the couch I'd passed out on the night before.

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  33. I absolutely adore your blog. Your posts always make me laugh out loud. I too love being at my parents house and dream of just being able to go home and have my mum take care of me. I love my mother more than a 30 year old married woman should.

    As for friends - I hardly have any. Its partly because I'm neurotic and mostly because I'm a major b*tch. I hate small talk (boring) and I live in perpetual fear that I will run out of smart and witty things to say and that people will realize that I am just a boring, mindless loser. But whatever, at least my mum likes me.

    Please keep writing. I love your blog. Its brilliant.

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  34. Just found your blog with a google search for feta salad! Made it with the addition of grapes and omission of avocado as I didn't have any. Was delish. Then read this post and enjoyed. Particularly as my daughter is upstairs screaming herself into an apoplectic fit instead of drifting quietly into the wonderful world of sleep!

    Meanwhile son crashed out in lounge so he can at least have a vague chance of getting some shut eye. What is wrong with the girl? She's suddenly developed a curious sleep phobia from nowhere. Sure everyone would tell me it's just "a phase" (how annoying is that phrase!) so let's just hope it's a short one!

    A friend described his baby as a sleep terrorist once. Great description!

    I will tune in for more of your musings soon!

    James

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  35. Fuck... I wish I could offer some wise words. Though I find that reminding myself that it's all just a phase is quite reassuring. I am dreading the day Kitty decides that she's got a sleep phobia. It can only be a matter of time.

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  36. I have just found this blog - written so brilliantly and honestly. I very much want to try the Coronation chicken recipe - my coronation chicken recipe as a child was a bit of homepride curry sauce (yes really) mixed with salad cream and a scattering of raisins. No wonder I left home at 16.

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