I wasn’t around for the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II; I wouldn’t be born for a dozen years. Even if I had been, I doubt coronation chicken — so named because it was created for the occasion — would’ve been on my family’s menu the way it was across the pond, where it became Britain’s first “TV dinner” for those watching the ceremony on the small screen, according to historian Joe Moran.
Culinarily, culturally and geographically, West Texas is about as far from Buckingham Palace as anyplace I can imagine.
Still, I have had my share of curried chicken salad over the years, and I get the appeal — warming spice, neutral protein, touches of tartness and crunch. As a vegetarian, I was hopeful when I saw Charlie Watson’s recipe for a chickpea version of the dish in her book “Cook, Eat, Run” (Hardie Grant, 2020). She’s a British marathoner and dietitian, and her recipe seems more inspired by modern interpretations of coronation chicken, using mango chutney, dried apricots, almonds and celery in addition to the requisite curry.
It’s simple to put together, mostly because the protein comes from a can, with no poaching or roasting required. Indian curry paste offers a more complex backdrop of spices than a powder, and Greek yogurt lightens up the mayo-based dressing.
As a dietitian, Watson — perhaps not surprisingly — lists her top serving suggestion for the chickpeas as atop salad greens, and the photograph in her book shows them on small baked potatoes.
I support those ideas, but there’s also nothing wrong with eating this as a sandwich, perhaps while watching the next-best thing to a coronation: Netflix’s “The Crown.”
Coronation Chickpea Salad15 minutes
2 tablespoons mild Indian curry paste (such as Patak’s brand)
3 1/2 cups cooked or canned no-salt-added chickpeas (from two 15-ounce cans), drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (may substitute vegan mayonnaise)
3 tablespoons full-fat Greek yogurt (may substitute nondairy yogurt)
2 tablespoons mango chutney
2 stalks celery, finely chopped (3/4 cup)
1/3 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted if desired (see NOTE)
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, plus more whole leaves for optional garnish
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed
In a large skillet over medium heat, add the curry paste and cook, stirring, until aromatic, for 1 minute. Stir in the chickpeas until well-coated, then remove from the heat and transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
Stir in the mayonnaise, yogurt, chutney, celery, apricots, almonds, chopped cilantro, salt and pepper until combined. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with whole cilantro leaves, if desired.
NOTE: To toast the slivered almonds, position a baking rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Scatter the almonds on a small, rimmed baking sheet and bake until lightly browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Immediately transfer the nuts to a plate to avoid burning them.