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Italian, Indian and Chinese cooks find common ground on the issue of what to do with a cauliflower.  They will differ over the particulars, but all agree that taking the vegetable apart and mixing it in a pan with other flavours is a good idea.

The particular version of the good idea described here is distinctive, assertive, and good-tasting.  This brief and busy little recipe is full of activity:  toasting, grinding, chopping, mixing…and devoid of complexity.  If it were a song, it would be a ‘ditty’, for it is whimsical (of no one particular style or cuisine); it is simple; and it makes for a diverting good time…in the kitchen.

Stir-fried Cauliflower and Green Peas with Toasted Cumin and Coriander Seed ( for 6 people)

Note: To print this recipe, or any other diplomatickitchen recipe, go to the bottom of the page, at the end of the post, and click on the icon: Print & PDF.


  • 1 head of cauliflower, divided into fleurettes, and the larger ones cut in half
  • 1 Tablespoon of coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 3 Tablespoons of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 – 2 whole dried chile de árbol peppers, or another small, whole dried red chile:  depending upon how much heat you like
  • 1 fresh Thai green chile, or half of a green serrano chile, minced
  • 1 cup of frozen green peas, thawed, but not cooked
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala:  the photographed recipe is made from a packaged garam masala spice blend.
  • 3 Tablespoons of sunflower oil, or vegetable oil of your choice
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, more–or less
  • an optional garnish is a small whole dried chile de árbol pepper, with its stem still attached, for each serving


  • a small pan in which to toast the seeds
  • a utensil for grinding the seeds:  a mortar and pestle, or an electric spice grinder (or coffee grinder that you use as a spice grinder), or a blender
  • a wok with a lid

1.  Put the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry pan and toast them over medium heat.  In a few minutes they will begin to pop and smell fragrant, and will start to darken…

…Remove them from the heat and grind them up together:

2.  Heat the oil in the wok.  Add the whole dried chile(s), and the ground coriander and cumin seeds.  Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes, then add the minced fresh green chile and fresh ginger and cook for a minute more–still stirring .

3.  Add the cauliflower and stir-fry it, coating it with the spices, until it begins to brown–for about 3 – 5 minutes.  Add 1/4 cup of water, cover, and cook until the cauliflower just becomes tender–perhaps another 4 – 5 minutes.  Remove the lid, add the peas and increase the heat to high.  Add the garam masala and stir-fry the vegetables for a minute or two more, until the water is evaporated and the peas are heated and just cooked.

4.  Add the kosher salt (more or less than the suggested amount of 1/2 teaspoon).  Garnish each serving with a small, stemmed, whole dried chile de árbol pepper, if you like the idea.

A Note:  Stir-fried Cauliflower and Green Peas with Toasted Cumin and Coriander Seed accompanies the Main Course of the Lunch Menu:  Lunch from the Grill in the CongoThe citrus-ey flavour of the coriander seed goes well with fish.

© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2012