Farhana Shaikh: Gluten Free Indian Cooking

Allison Sodha

Guest Blogger: Farhana Shaikh

Sodha Travel welcomes Farhana Shaikh, an Indian cooking enthusiast, as she discusses her roots and gluten-free Indian cuisine:

My name is Farhana and I have been cooking since I was nine years old. Many people might be shocked to hear this, but I think it’s the best thing that could have happened to me. I learned early on how to make many recipes that were handed down to my mother from my Nani Maa (Grandma). Even though my mother was the cook in the family, my father will always be the true chef. I wish he would have cooked more but we were a very traditional family when it came to roles. (I was raised in England, the daughter of Indian parents.) From my dad, I learned to be creative and to push the envelope, and from my mother I learned to be consistent and stable. With these influences, I cook in a very unique manner. There are dishes that come from “forever recipes” - unchanged and unaltered - since I feel it would be unforgivable to amend them. There are other recipes where I wonder, "Why did my mother teach me to do that?" So, with my slight variations, I have perfected and improved upon longtime favorites.

The biggest compliment did not come from my parents or my fiance, but rather from my brother who is eighteen now. Once while visiting me in the US, he told me I cooked better than our mother. I smiled and my fiance asked why this meant more to me than his view on my cooking. I told him when an Indian mother is cooking for her children she can do no wrong. She cooks the best. This is something even an Indian wife has difficulty accomplishing - exceeding the proficiency and talent of the mother-in-law. When my brother declared my cooking skills, it was a feat in itself - a true testament to my passion for cooking and, in reality, my mother’s teaching skills.

My dishes are simple in their ingredients and method. I am very health conscious. The one tool that is a necessity in my kitchen is my pressure cooker. Some consider this as a way to cheat, but being a working mother I do not have the time to stand over the stove for hours. Many people have a desire to cook but are balancing work, family, and life. They are in awe when I tell them I cook most of my dishes in twenty minutes. Also, living in Denver, Colorado, the altitude affects cooking and boiling times so the pressure cooker is truly my best friend. Using a pressure cooker does not alter the quality or taste of the dishes I cook.

And, like any good story, there is a twist: I recently found out that I am gluten intolerant. Most people would be upset and unraveled by this news, but luckily Indian food is so adaptable it can be made gluten free. Here is one of my favorite recipes, simple and delicious:

Yogurt/Sour Cream and Tomato Chicken

Serves 4


  • 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into small cubes
  • 1 ½ tsp cilantro/coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ¾ tsp red chili powder
  • ¼ tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 small container of plain yogurt/sour cream
  • 1 small can tomato sauce (8oz)
  • 1 tsp ground fresh/frozen ginger
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1/8 cup oil (veg/olive etc)
  • 2 tbsp butter


  1. Mix all ingredients except chicken, veg oil and butter in a bowl until it is blended well
  2. Add chicken and coat well
  3. In a pan heat up oil and butter on medium heat
  4. Once butter has melted add sauce and chicken into pan
  5. Cook for about 20 minutes with lid on
  6. Serve with rice (If not gluten intolerant, serve with roti/naan)

For more gluten-free recipes, visit Farhana at Cooking Reinvented.

Topics: India, Food and Water

Allison Sodha

Written by Allison Sodha

As the President of Sodha Travel and author of Go! Girl Guides India, Allison has spent almost two decades exploring South Asia. She has a passion for creating experiences fueled by a deeper understanding of local communities.