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.
During the Lebanese civil war, in the mid eighties, we retreated into the mountains where my father set up a dairy farm on the ancestral land. For a great part of my childhood I helped to water orchards, harvest fruits and vegetables, chase after chickens, make labneh and even milk the odd cow. This has influenced and encouraged me to learn and understand more about the culture, history, and importance behind these ancient food processes.
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. One afternoon, as the BBQ was ablaze and the wine was flowing, friends and I joked that one day in my retirement age, I would publish the recipes in a cookbook entitled Dirty Kitchen, the name curiously selected because of the “rowdy” (or countless) amount of ingredients that went into my BBQ marinades. My husband (and dishwasher extraordinaire) also felt it described my kitchen aptly as I kept him busy with a neverending fleet of dishes to clean.
(ANY PICS OF US COOKING UP IN 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 cook both classical and inspired dishes and endeavour to present them in an un-intimidating manner with thorough and easy-to-follow instructions.
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, meanwhile Yotam Ottolenghi said “I’ve been dipping into the Jewelled Kitchen, a gorgeous looking and gem-filled recipe book from a new champion of Middle Eastern food.” Plenty more reviews here. The Jewelled Kitchen has been published in Dutch and soon in Arabic. I’m currently working on my second cookbook, also on Middle Eastern food, due out 2016. French and Arabic are my first languages, though I am now most comfortable expressing myself in English (for the most part, at least). I am fluent in all three. 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.