Roasted Cauliflower in Turmeric Kefir

May 24, 2021
10 Ratings
Photo by Nik Sharma
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This recipe takes advantage of kefir (buttermilk can be substituted) for its bright acidity. I prefer to use a bottle of freshly opened kefir or buttermilk here, because as these liquids age, the lactic acid increases, which not only leaves a strong tart taste but also causes the milk proteins to curdle quickly on heating.

The Flavor Approach: Using the acidity of fermented dairy such as kefir and the Maillard reaction creates a bittersweet taste and new aroma molecules in vegetables. Chickpea flour, which contains starch, acts as a thickener for the base of the sauce. The sound of the seeds sizzling is a good indicator of how hot your oil is; if the oil is hot enough, they will sizzle immediately and brown quickly.

Reprinted from The Flavor Equation by Nik Sharma with permission by Chronicle Books, 2020.Nik Sharma

What You'll Need
  • Roasted Cauliflower in Turmeric Kefir
  • 2 pounds (910 grams) cauliflower, broken into bite-size florets
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala, homemade (recipe below) or store-bought
  • Fine sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons (60 milliliters) grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 5 1/4 ounces (150 grams) minced red onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chile powder (optional)
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) chickpea flour
  • 2 cups (480 milliliters) fresh kefir or buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
  • Garam Masala
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 (2-inch/5-centimeter) cinnamon stick
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 3 or 4 green cardamom pods
  • 1 whole black cardamom pod
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  1. Roasted Cauliflower in Turmeric Kefir
  2. Heat the oven to 400°F (204°C).
  3. Place the cauliflower in a roasting pan or baking dish. Sprinkle with the garam masala, season with salt, and toss to coat. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil and toss to coat evenly. Roast the cauliflower for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown and slightly charred. Stir the florets halfway through roasting.
  4. While the cauliflower is roasting, place a deep, medium saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the pan. Add the onions and sauté until they just start to turn translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the turmeric and chile powder and cook for 30 seconds. Lower the heat to low and add the chickpea flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and fold in the kefir, stirring constantly. Watch the liquid carefully as it cooks until it thickens slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Fold the roasted cauliflower into the liquid and remove from the heat. Taste and add salt if necessary. Heat a small, dry saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the cumin and black mustard seeds and cook until they start to pop and the cumin starts to brown, 30 to 45 seconds. Remove from the heat and add the chile flakes, swirling the oil in the pan until the oil turns red. Quickly pour the hot oil with the seeds over the cauliflower in the saucepan. Garnish with the chopped cilantro and serve warm with rice or parathas.
  1. Garam Masala
  2. Heat a small, dry stainless-steel or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, and green and black cardamom pods. Toast gently by rotating the pan to circulate the spices until the spices become fragrant, 30 to 45 seconds. Be careful not to burn them; if they do burn, discard them and start fresh.
  3. Transfer the toasted spices to a small plate and let cool completely. Transfer the cooled spices to a mortar or spice grinder. Add the nutmeg and grind to a fine powder. Store the spice mix in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Mathieu Garcia
    Mathieu Garcia
  • Lorrie Hanawalt
    Lorrie Hanawalt
  • Lint_Julep
  • aurora
Nik Sharma is a molecular biologist turned cookbook author and food photographer who writes a monthly column for Serious Eats and the San Francisco Chronicle and is a contributor to the New York Times. His first cookbook, Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food, was a finalist for a James Beard Foundation award and an International Association of Culinary Professionals award. Nik resides in Los Angeles, California and writes the award-winning blog, A Brown Table. Nik's new book, The Flavor Equation will be released in October 2020.

5 Reviews

Lint_Julep May 24, 2021
The first time using kefir in a savoury recipe and we loved the tang. I bumped up some of the spices and added a few others but I very much enjoyed it. The gram flour added an interesting flavour/texture. I will make this again but possibly top with a small amount of chopped toasted pistachios for a texture addition.
Mathieu G. April 24, 2021
Absolutely perfect combination of flavors. I made it with homemade kefir and served it with sourdough fenugreek parathas. Such a comforting dinner!
Lorrie H. February 4, 2021
This was just okay to me. It smelled amazing but was too rich for my taste and after the first few bites I couldn't eat anymore.
aurora February 1, 2021
Just made this and thought it was excellent. Super easy and flavorful! I subbed in AP flour as I was out of chickpea flour and it seemed to work just fine. Kefir added a great acidity and added the red chile powder that was listed as optional -- it had a lovely heat without being too hot and served over rice. Cilantro to garnish is a must. Would highly recommend for a easy weeknight or to impress a guest. Next time I might try doubling the sauce and adding in chickpeas or chicken for more protein.
ekm January 17, 2021
Delicious dish, special and pleasurable enough to make for company. This marked my introduction to kefir, the recipe calling for folding in two cups of this highly viscous, pleasingly sour liquidlike form of yogurt. The effect is to leave this dish tasting luscious and rich, though I believe as a whole it would qualify as low calorie. Calling for a vibrant array of aromatic and pungent Middle Eastern spices—among them garem masala, turmeric, cumin and mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, coriander—cauliflower is utterly transformed from white and bland neutral vegetable to produce a substantial symphony of sizzling mouthplay. The effect is as filling as a casserole of potatoes au gratin but much more exotic and boasting a high satiety index.