The Jewelled Kitchen Virtual Cookbook Launch

It’s time to introduce you to a brand new and beautiful cookery book by Bethany Kehdy called The Jewelled Kitchen – A stunning collection of Lebanese, Moroccan and Persian recipes. I was very honoured to be asked by Bethany to take part in her virtual cookbook launch. I dove straight into Bethany’s Whipped Hummus with Lamb, although there was an abundance of tempting recipes to choose from, including dishes from Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan.

The Jewelled Kitchen

I confess to having a weakness for Lebanese food; during my studies in London my best friend used to take me to a Lebanese restaurant pretty much weekly – it was my biggest splurge of the week, but they were student pennies very well spent. There might have also been a glass of the anise-scented ‘Arak’ or two shared…Even now; Middle Eastern cuisine is always at the top of my ‘eat-out’ food list and I was also very eager to get stuck into trying some dishes for myself at home.

If you are a food blogger, you may already be familiar with the very talented author of this book, Bethany, in her alter-ego as the driving force behind Food Blogger Connect. The fifth internally renowned conference took place this weekend gone at the Battersea Arts Centre in London – much more about the weekend to come. I remember speaking to Bethany at length last year about the process of writing her book, along with friend and photographer Šárka Babická. I knew back then that this collaboration of two highly talented and self-driven individuals would be incredibly inspiring – and it is. Bethany is also a blogger at Dirty Kitchen Secrets, a chef, a freelance food and travel writer and somehow, in between all of this, leads culinary tours across Lebanon.

Aubergine, veal and yogurt crumble from The Jewelled Kitchen by Bethany Kehdy © Duncan Baird Publishers 2013, commissioned photography by Šárka Babická

The Jewelled Kitchen, published by Duncan Baird Publishers, opens with Bethany’s very personal culinary reflections. Bethany begins by sharing her earliest memories of food in Beirut during the early eighties, stopping at the sweet-shop with her grandfather (jeddo) or shadowing her grandmother (teta) whilst grocery shopping.

Bethany was born in Houston, Texas, but returned to Lebanon with her father when her parents separated when she was just four years old. Bethany’s Lebanese father was a lawyer, meaning that Bethany spent most of her time with her grandparents. However, he later set up a dairy farm, where Bethany recalls hiding in the pine forest, exploring caves, making cheese or shelling pine nuts and chickpeas. After returning to America for a few years, Bethany was again lured back to Lebanon where she discovered cooking and feeding people as a “cheap and rewarding form of therapy.” In her twenties, she moved back to America again, spending time in Houston, Miami and Hawaii before ending up in London with her British husband.

Although Bethany has taken in her fair share of cultures and cuisines, it is her love for Middle Eastern food that has always had the strongest pull. Her book explores the very best of Middle Eastern home-cooking, celebrating humble vegetables and grains, brought alive by an array of spices and kitchen staples, such as garlic, lemon and fresh herbs as well as pomegranate molasses, bread, citrus and yogurt. Bethany explores mezze, poultry, meat, seafood and vegetarian dishes. On every page, there is a good dose of her trademark charm and a warm invitation to try some of her most cherished recipes.

This is a cookery book that I could easily spend the year cooking from in ‘Julie and Julia’ style. I would happily use it as a manual from which to learn the secrets of Middle Eastern cuisine, taking in recipes such as Silky Chickpea and Lamb Soup, Swimming Chickpeas, the enchantingly-named Slumbering Chamomile Chicken or the Duck Shawarma with Fig Jam that I’ve been dreaming of ever since receiving the book.

Swimming Chickpeas
Swimming Chickpeas – from The Jewelled Kitchen by Bethany Kehdy © Duncan Baird Publishers 2013, commissioned photography by Šárka Babická

Bethany’s introductions are interesting and informative – in many cases, giving Arabic translations of dishes, explanations about ingredients or suggestions of alternative options, such as making the ‘fattet makdous’ (stuffed aubergine with crumbs) with lamb or beef, or even lentils for a vegetarian twist.

There is also a chapter filled with unusual and highly enticing fish dishes, such as, Almond Crusted Scallops, Slow-Braised Spiced Squid, or one of my favourite dishes of them all; Sea Bass with Spiced Caramelized Onion Rice. Added to which, there are also plenty of vegetarian dishes to explore, such as Courgettes Stuffed with Herb Rice, a Slow-Cooked Broad Bean and Tomato Stew, or a punchy Shaved Beetroot, Radish and Grapefruit salad.

At the back of the book, a sweet ending of Date Fudge, Semolina Pancakes, rolled and filled with ricotta or clotted cream, almond butter and honeycomb or these fun and colourful Fruit Cocktails with Lebanese clotted cream and nuts.

Fruit Cocktail
Fruit Cocktail from The Jewelled Kitchen by Bethany Kehdy © Duncan Baird Publishers 2013, commissioned photography by Šárka Babická

Through The Jewelled Kitchen, Bethany has succeeded in weaving together a collection of authentic, captivating recipes, whilst sensitively introducing her readers to Middle Eastern cooking in a modern, appealing and incredibly alluring way.

Pop back tomorrow morning when I’ll be sharing Bethany’s recipe for Whipped Hummus with Lamb. 


With many thanks to Bethany Kehdy and Duncan Baird Publishers for my review copy of The Jewelled Kitchen. RRP £20.00.

You can follow the other posts in this virtual cookbook launch here.

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  1. Dearest Ren, thank you for such a wonderful review for JK and I’m incredibly touched by your flattering comments and that you would consider it as a book you’ll cook from again and again. I’m incredibly honoured to have you endorse this book, for taking the time to write about it and for making my recipes.

    Can’t wait for you to try the seeyadeeyeh (the sea bass and caramelised onion rice) and hear what you think. One of my top 5 JK recipes. xxx

    1. Ren Behan says:

      Dear Bethany, it was my absolute pleasure. As mentioned on Twitter, I admire and adore you honesty in the opening culinary reflections. So much of your lift has been spent travelling and soaking up so many different cultures and it’s amazing to see such wonderful recipes from a region that means so much to you. I would love to try the sea bass – I’m off to buy the ingredients, now! x

  2. Thanks for the great review post. I wasn’t able to attend the book launch portion at FBC5 to get a peak at Bethany’s book and taste some more of her delicious food. I remember the first time I met Bethany was at a FBC potluck about 4 years ago and she made that whipped hummus with lamb and it was sooo good. I’m off to order my copy!

    1. Ren Behan says:

      Hiya, shame you didn’t make the launch I heard it was amazing. Still, we can re-create some of it at home at least x

  3. Its funny how food plays such an important part of our growing years. Before I had even left school, my friend and I would treat ourselves to a chinese meal each weekend and I am still addicted to all food chinese ever since. Middle Eastern food I have to say has not been high up on my list although I do have the odd middle eastern cookbook. This is such a good review Ren that it has left me eager to source a copy and to try the new recipe hummus with lamb.

    1. Ren Behan says:

      Thank you so much Denise, that’s a really lovely comment. Yes, food plays a huge part in our memories and this book took me back to a very specific time of my life in a really emotional way. xx

  4. Great review Ren. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a copy and diving straight in with my arsenal of middle-eastern spices. And great to see you at FBC5 & dine from your sweet pop-up. I’m only sorry we didn’t have a chance to chat.

    1. Ren Behan says:

      Thank Kellie – yes you’ll love the spices. Allspice has been a revelation to me, it really adds something else to many of Bethany’s dishes. I have no idea why we didn’t chat! The day was a whirlwind! x

  5. Loved reading your view. So interesting to find out more about Bethany, the author. I look forward to seeing what you made of the book!

    1. Ren Behan says:

      Thank you Laura – great to see you on Friday!

  6. Love this introduction to Bethany and the book – looking forward to your hummous post too. I must say, there are a lot of Middle Eastern books around but this stands out – and the recipes work so well too.

    1. Ren Behan says:

      Yes I only have one, by the wonderful Claudia Roden called Arabesque, but the reason I love Bethany’s so much is that it is so personal. She has a great future ahead of her. x

  7. I bought Bethany’s book and I’m delighted I did. I love the photography and I’m sure it will be the book that teaches me how to cook Middle Eastern food beyond humus and Tzatziki. GG

    1. Ren Behan says:

      Great news, I;m sure you’ll love it. I agree – we do need to move beyond hummus but it’s such a good place to start!

  8. Mmm looks delicious, I adore Lebanese food and flavours so one for the list! Thanks Ren for the intro to this gorgeous looking book 🙂

    1. Ren Behan says:

      Thank you Mary – I’ve been cooking from this book so much!

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