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The Flavor Equation: Roasted Cauliflower and Turmeric Kefir

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.

  • Yield: 4


2 lb/910 g cauliflower, broken into bite-size florets

1 tsp garam masala, homemade or store-bought

Fine sea salt

4 Tbsp/60 ml grapeseed or other neutral oil

5¼ oz/150 g minced red onion

½ tsp ground turmeric

½ tsp red chilli powder (optional)

¼ cup/30 g chickpea flour

2 cups/480 ml fresh kefir or buttermilk

½ tsp cumin seeds

½ tsp black or brown mustard seeds

1 tsp red chilli flakes

2 Tbsp chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F [204°C].
  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 Tbsp 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 Tbsp 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 Tbsp 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.


  • 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.

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