Your Lebanon Chef Feature:
Bethany Kehdy is a cook, author, presenter, and champion of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and North African cuisines. She utilizes traditional Middle Eastern ingredients in new and unique ways. Her love for Middle Eastern cuisine is evident through her work conducting educational food tours within Lebanon (@TasteLebanon), her cookbooks, and her supperclubs (@SwingingMawsam)!
Guest Recipe Features:
Q & A with Bethany
Please tell us about yourself:
My name is Bethany Kehdy. I’m a Lebanese-American cook, presenter and author specialising in the cuisines of the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa.
I was born in Houston, Texas and raised in Lebanon where I spent much time watching and learning the art of Middle Eastern food preparation, cooking and preserving from my grandmother, dad and aunties. I began documenting my Middle Eastern and other culinary forays in a word document, entitled Dirty Kitchen sometime in 2004, during my early days of moving to Miami, Florida. Four years later and inspired by a brutally cold move to London, I upgraded from my word document to the exciting world of online publishing and Dirty Kitchen Secrets, the food blog, was born. Back then, the Middle Eastern dishes and ingredients I was writing about-whether labneh, freekeh or za’atar to name a few- were still rather obscure and novel to my western readers. DKS was home to the first online pantry dedicated to demystifying the key ingredients of this culinary repertoire and today I continue to expand on it with more detailed visual and behind-the scenes posts.
Time’s have since changed and thrillingly they are no longer ancient secrets. And now as these ingredients get swallowed up by the world of trends and begin to bubble up on all sorts of menus, blogs, cookbooks and screens (albeit sometimes a bit too painful to taste- za’atar, the spice mix, is not for everything!), for me they remain the ingredients of my childhood…ancient tools that express the bellows of my belly on the canvas that is my plate.
My journey to share the tastes and joys of Middle Eastern food and help make it thoughtfully understood continues through this website and my other endeavours, whether through recipes and cookbooks, Taste Lebanon, Barakah, or Food Blogger Connect. Middle Eastern food is rooted in history, folktales and purpose and while the freedom to apply modern interpretations is exciting, I also believe it’s important to remember that this rich culinary heritage is more profound than a garnish of rose petals or a pinch of sumac. And as such, its depth and complexities deserve to be honoured and cherished before they fade to whispers beneath the dust.
I am the author of the award-winning cookbook, The Jewelled Kitchen. The US version is called Pomegranates and Pine Nuts. The Jewelled Kitchen was awarded best blog to book for the UK in the World Gourmand Awards. It was cookbook of the week at The Telegraph and featured in The Times. The New York Times listed it as one of their notable cookbooks of 2013. I am the mentor on The Taste Arabia and occasionally publish webisodes. For TV appearances, video recipes and The Taste Arabia episodes, check out my Youtube Channel.
Where are you from:
Where are you currently residing:
What is your favorite Middle Eastern dish to make:
Right now mloukhieh because it’s in season
Do you prefer traditional Middle Eastern dishes or modern/fusion Middle Eastern dishes:
I like traditional dishes but also like to play around with Middle Eastern ingredients and present traditional ingredients in new ways. For example, falafel scotch egg, keshk akhdar mutabal, Labneh mousse and so on.
What do you love most about cooking Middle Eastern cuisine:
The versatility, freshness and wholesomeness of ingredients and makeup of a meal. There is a bountiful amount of eating wisdom that survived the centuries via long-standing traditions; you make meat go a long way for your food and health by sprinkling it into stews and stretching it into kebbeh, if it’s meat-laden it comes with pickles to help digest. Yoghurt is a regular and keeps everything regular. This traditional diet that is balanced, delicious and respectful of good fats is what I appreciate and respect.
What is your favorite Middle Eastern restaurant:
I don’t have favourites but different ones depending on my mood. In Beirut I love Em Sherif & Liza. I love Seza’s for Armenian. In London I go to the Palomar.
What is your favorite food blog:
I’ve not been following food blogs for a while now. I love food authors like Nawal Nasrallah and Sami Zubaida and also follow a lot of Middle Eastern chef and Instagram accounts; for example Greg Malouf, I.am.chaima., @hisham_ad, Sami Tamimi, Palestine on a Plate, Almond and Fig
What is a must have tool in your kitchen for making Middle Eastern food:
Mortar and pestle
What advice do you have for someone just starting to find their way around the kitchen:
Listen to your senses, taste, don’t be afraid to experiment. Have fun.
What nostalgic candy bar would you grab on walks to the local deken when you were a kid:
Thank you and alf soha- Bethany Kehdy