Red Fresno Chili Peppers and Tibetan Cauliflower Curry

I am on a soup kick.  Fall has finally arrived to North Carolina and it’s been raining for days.  When the clouds roll in and it gets cool, all I want are hot liquids.

I didn’t have a plan when I got to the market today.  Sometimes I like to check out the produce section and get inspired.  There were these beautiful Red Fresno Peppers in season.  Hot red peppers are perfectly balanced with coconut milk. After picking them up and smelling them, I remembered a wonderful soup I used to eat when I was in college at Cornell University: Tibetan Cauliflower Curry. In Goldwin Smith Hall where the English Department is housed–I was an English major, believe it or not–there’s an amazing kitchen called Temple of Zeus that makes fresh vegetarian soup every day.  They have a rotation of nearly 50 variations that range from Hungarian Mushroom, to Cheddar Parsnip.  Tibertan Cauliflower Curry was my ultimate favorite and I have the recipe committed to memory.  So I bought the ingredients and set off to cook.

When I have the energy, I toast my own spices and grind them myself.  Like coffee beans, whole spices retain more flavors than spices that have been previously ground.  If you feel compelled I highly recommend trying it.  I only had whole cumin and coriander on hand, but even just toasting those two made the soup so aromatic.  I don’t have a fancy spice grinder, but I do have a “Grind” setting on my food processor.

This soup is rich, hearty, and slightly sweet and makes an excellent entrée on its own.  I went for full-fat coconut milk.  It’s Monday–why not?  You can determine your level of heat by deciding on 1, 2 or no fresno peppers.  You could try a milder pepper.  Or a hotter pepper.  Play.

Tibetan Cauliflower Curry

(Adapted from Temple of Zeus)


Spice Mixture

  • 2 tsp. cumin toasted and ground (or 1 tsp. ground cumin)
  • 2 tsp. coriander, toasted and ground (or 1 tsp. ground coriander)
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder

For the Soup

  • 2 tablespoons safflower oil
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece of ginger root, minced
  • 1-2 red fresno chili peppers
  • 2 medium carrots, halved and cut into half moons
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, broken into bite-sized pieces
  • 28 ounces of diced tomatoes with liquid
  • 4 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 10 ounce bag frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons honey (or agave)
  • 1 13.66-ounce can of coconut milk
  • 1 small bunch cilantro (optional) stems removed and leaves finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

To Toast the Spices:

  1. If you’re going to grind your own spices, place whole cumin and coriander seeds in a cool, dry sauté pan or skillet.  Warm over low heat, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes or until spices turn golden brown.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Grind in spice grinder or Cuisinart on the grind setting until spices become a fine powder.

To Make the Soup:

  1. Heat oil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pan.  Add onions, garlic, ginger and chili peppers and stir until onions become translucent.  Add carrots and cook for about 5 minutes more.
  2. Add potatoes and cauliflower and slowly stir in spices, coating all of the vegetables and making sure none of the spice burn at the bottom of the pot.
  3. Add diced tomatoes and their liquid, stir, scraping spices that may have stuck to the bottom of the pot.
  4. Add 4 cups of vegetable broth or water.  Bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 30 minutes or until cauliflower and potatoes are tender, stirring frequently.
  6. Once vegetables are completely cooked, stir-in honey, then coconut milk.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Just before serving, add cilantro to pot, reserving some as garnish.

Enjoy with a cool beverage, I recommend a bottle of Magic Hat #9 or a glass of dry Riesling.

DOWNLOAD RECIPE PDF: Tibetan Cauliflower Curry

2 responses to “Red Fresno Chili Peppers and Tibetan Cauliflower Curry

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