Becoming a food influencer with hundreds and thousands of followers on Instagram wasn’t on Mahima Dhoot’s cards. The online chef was studying in London when the pandemic hit and compelled everyone to come up with innovative alternatives to things we previously took for granted like, in Mahima’s case, eating out in restaurants.
“I had to come back home during COVID and complete my masters from India. At the time, no restaurants were open. The world was at a standstill and that gave me a lot of time to just cook,” she says during a chat with HELLO!. The influencer started cooking food she would normally order from outside, from McDonald’s popular favourites to Mexican rice, and made the serendipitous decision to post photos of these to an Instagram page she had previously created to document her eating adventures in London.
“People from across the world suddenly started messaging me, asking if they could use my recipe and they were sharing pictures of their recreations! It was fascinating.”
After some soul searching, Mahima decided to commit to life as a food influencer and the rest was history.
Her Instagram page (@diningwithdhoot) stands at 320k followers at the time this article is being written and thousands of people get inspired by her recipes every single day. This makes her one of the best people to dispense tips on how one can make good on their resolution to eat better and cook more in 2024.
“I’m also one of those people who always resolve to eat better and make healthier choices every year,” says Mahima, laughing, “But it’s a task to last beyond January!”
The influencer, however, has come up with several tried-and-tested ways to help her fellow resolution makers.
“First thing I’ll advise everyone is to not starve themselves because I think that’s the biggest mistake anyone who thinks they’re eating healthy or getting into this diet fad does is that they starve themselves and then eventually you reach a breaking point. This is where people tend to over-binge and over-compensate for all the food that they’ve deprived themselves. This is why you need to be mindful of your choices. If you’re craving a pizza, then eat it but later compensate with a lighter dinner.”
The other thing Mahima swears by is eating more home-cooked meals than ordering in. “I always say homemade is healthier. Even if you’re having a homemade pizza, It’s healthier than calling from it from outside. When you’re making it yourself, you know exactly what ingredients are going in and the method of preparation. You can customise it to your liking and make healthier choices consciously.”
However, the influencer agrees that having only a few hours of resting time during the day might deter a lot of people from entering the kitchen. “One of the main factors why people don’t want to cook is because they think it’s very time-consuming and one of the best ways to cut down on cooking time is to prep a lot of your ingredients in advance.”
Mahima advises investing in the right tool for your need to make your life easier in the kitchen and save time, “Invest in the right tools that will help you cut down on time and will make cooking seem less daunting. If you’re not using your knife you don’t have to spend hours chopping your onions and peeling your garlic.”
She also recommends starting simple. “If you’re straight away going to attack a very complicated recipe, you’re probably going to give up after your first attempt if it doesn’t taste good, right? So start simple.”
If you’re someone who wants to make better food choices in 2024, take a cue from Mahima and remember that it’s never too late to start your culinary journey, as long as you have the right tools and mindset!
We also got the talented chef to part with a recipe for her twist on an Italian favourite. Take a look at the Healthy Eggplant Parmesan by Mahima Dhoot that’s going to become your new go-to dinner party dish soon!
Chef Mahima’s Recipe For A Healthy Eggplant Parmesan
- 2 eggplants
- 4 garlic cloves
- 4-5 ripe tomatoes
- 1 onion
- 200g paneer / ricotta
- 1 cup boiled spinach
- 1 cup grated cheese (mozzarella preferably)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- Chilli flakes
- Start by slicing the eggplants into thin slices.
- Line them onto a baking tray & sprinkle salt & spray some olive oil. Make sure this is coated on both sides of the eggplant & now bake in the oven for 30 mins at 200C. Remember to flip in the middle.
- While this is baking, prepare your sauce. For this, purée four tomatoes into a paste. Then in a pan heat 1/2 tbsp oil, add in three to four garlic cloves (finely chopped) & one medium onion. Sauté this until browned.
- Add in your tomato purée and stir until this thickens. Season with salt, chilli flakes & oregano. Once you have a thick purée take it off flame.
- For the filling, mix a cup of grated paneer or ricotta, a cup of boiled spinach (chopped), some oregano, salt chilli flakes & very little cheese
- To assemble this, put alternating layers of first the tomato sauce and then the eggplant. The paneer filling on top of that, followed by some cheese. Keep doing this until you reach the top of your baking dish. Finally, add a layer of the sauce & cheese & Parmesan cheese as well.
- Bake in the oven for 30 mins at 200C until brown & bubbly.
- Serve this hot and enjoy!