2 tsp. each black peppercorns, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and mustard seeds
1 tsp. caraway seeds
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground turmeric or 1-inch piece of fresh turmeric, peeled and grated
1 cup basmati rice
1 large head cauliflower (about 2 lb.)
4 tbsp. neutral-flavored oil
2 sweet (field or bell) peppers (a mix of orange, red, and yellow
2 medium leeks or 1 large leek—trimmed, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced into half-moons
2 chiles (such as jalapeño, serrano, Fresno, and/or red finger chiles)
1 1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
4 cloves garlic, grated
A handful of fresh curry leaves (optional; available at
½ cup Shaoxing rice wine or sherry
½ cup peas, frozen or fresh when in season or available
½ cup vegetable stock
Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil for the rice. Place a fine-mesh strainer or colander in the sink.
In a small skillet, stir the black peppercorns, cumin, coriander, mustard, and caraway seeds over medium heat until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a spice mill and let cool. Finely grind the spices. Add the chili powder and ground turmeric (if you are not using fresh) and pulse for a moment to blend. Transfer the spices to a small jar and cover.
Add the rice and a fat pinch of salt to the boiling water (see note below); boil for 12 minutes. Drain the rice; rinse under hot water.
Trim the core and the greens from the cauliflower. Separate the cauliflower into very large florets and slice into small steaks that are about 1/4 inch thick.
In a large cast-iron skillet, heat 2 tbsp. oil, two turns of the pan, over medium-high. Add the cauliflower in a single layer; season with salt and pepper. Cook until browned in spots, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn over and cook until deep golden brown, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to a platter and cover with foil.
Add the remaining 2 tbsp. oil, two turns of the pan, to the skillet. Add the peppers and cook, tossing often, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes; season. Add the leeks, chiles, ginger, garlic, and fresh turmeric (if using); cook, tossing often, until aromatic, about 1 minute more. Return the cauliflower to the pan. Add half the spices (save the rest for another use) and the curry leaves (if using); toss until coated. Add the rice wine; cook, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add the peas and stock. Reduce heat a bit and cook until the cauliflower is tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Serve the rice with the spiced cauliflower and peppers.
Note: The rice is delicious on its own, but I like to flavor the water with 4 to 5 cardamom pods, an inch-long stick of cinnamon, a few curry leaves, and 2 crushed garlic cloves. Remove the pods and cinnamon before serving.