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.
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.
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.
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.
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.