Nik Sharma’s Roasted Cauliflower in Turmeric Kefir

updated Feb 8, 2021
Roasted Cauliflower in Turmeric Kefir

Enjoy this spicy, stew-y dinner over rice or with parathas.


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Credit: Nik Sharma

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.

Nik Sharma’s The Flavor Equation is Kitchn’s February pick for our Cookbook Club. See how you can participate here.

Roasted Cauliflower in Turmeric Kefir

Enjoy this spicy, stew-y dinner over rice or with parathas.

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 2 pounds

    cauliflower, broken into bite-size florets

  • 1 teaspoon

    garam masala, homemade (recipe follows) or store-bought

  • Fine sea salt

  • 4 tablespoons

    grapeseed or other neutral oil

  • 5 1/2 ounces

    minced red onion

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground turmeric

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    red chilli (chile) powder (optional)

  • 1/4 cup

    chickpea flour

  • 2 cups

    fresh kefir or buttermilk

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    cumin seeds

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    black or brown mustard seeds

  • 1 teaspoon

    red chilli (chile) flakes

  • 2 tablespoons

    chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

Nik Sharma's garam masala:

  • 2 tablespoons

    cumin seeds

  • 2 tablespoons

    coriander seeds

  • 1 tablespoon

    black peppercorns

  • 2

    dried bay leaves

  • 1

    (2-inch) cinnamon stick

  • 12

    whole cloves

  • 1

    whole black cardamom pod

  • 3 or 4

    green cardamom pods

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly grated nutmeg


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 chilli 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.

  4. 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 chilli 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.

For the garam masala:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

Recipe Notes

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