When we contacted Bethany to schedule an interview for midEATS, we had no idea she was this popular in the food blogging world! A recent article in The National, a prominent UAE online newspaper, reveals the secret to Bethany’s success with Dirty Kitchen Secret:
“Lebanese cuisine can be intimidating at first glance – it’s known for its labour-intensive preparations and a tradition of slow, lengthy cooking. But Kehdy has a knack for translating ambitious dishes and complex flavours into accessible, easy-to-follow recipes. Kehdy often tackles traditional Lebanese fares but also posts dishes that her ‘Middle Eastern friends can’t get from their mums’.” (The National)
Bethany’s ability to simplify complicated Middle Eastern recipes, or to “demystify” the process of cooking as she calls it, is highly rewarded and appreciated by her fans: according to The National, Bethany’s blog, Dirty Kitchen Secrets, receives between 10,000 to 60,000 readers a month! Due to her success in the kitchen, Bethany is branching out and conducting food tours in her homeland of Lebanon as well. If you can’t get enough of Lebanese cuisine and you want to learn the history behind the dishes of the Levant, be sure to visit Taste Lebanon to schedule your first tour!
In the following interview with Bethany, you’ll notice her British wording and spelling coming through in the phrasing and grammar (she lives in the UK!) and you’ll notice her mastery of the Lebanese food culture. Be sure to check out the various dishes linked throughout – we’ve highlighted one of her favorites below: Pomegranate & Za’atar Lamb Riblets! Yum!
~ Heba of midEATS
Interview with Lebanese Food Blogger Bethany Kehdy
How long have you been blogging? What inspired you to start a food blog?
I’ve been blogging since June 2008. I was inspired by my love for food and cooking. I had always dreamt of publishing a cookbook (one day when I retire), and when I came across a food blog I was just gobsmacked with the idea of self-publishing with the click of a button. I set up the blog within 24 hours.
How did you come up with your interesting blog name, Dirty Kitchen Secrets?
I always saved my recipes under the title Dirty Kitchen, a title romantically prescribed by my husband who felt each time he’d come into the kitchen it looked as though a hurricane had past through it. Funnily, I actually sway both ways depending on my mood and how much I’m cooking. If it’s a relaxing dinner, I have to clean as I go. If I’m cooking for a manic dinner party, it’s tougher to keep the kitchen spotless as I go, but I do try.
What is your favorite Lebanese recipe and why?
What is your favorite blog post from your own blog?
My current fave is a recently posted recipe on Pomegranate & Za’atar Lamb Riblets that was also noted as a favourite among blog readers, friends and family.
What has been the most challenging thing about blogging? What about the most rewarding thing?
The most challenging part of food blogging has definitely been getting decent photography on the website. Another challenge has been working hard to build a career in what I love to do and getting people to believe in what I do.
The most rewarding thing is having people make the recipes and love them. Getting comments from expat Lebanese about how much a particular post or recipe has moved them and made them miss home even more- those always move me and push me to continue.
Where do you find food inspiration?
Absolutely everywhere. It’s too fluid to point to anything specific. I also love to create challenges for myself by coming up with new dishes from Middle Eastern ingredients. That is always good for inspiration too.
What is one memorable food experience from childhood (or in general)?
My fondest memories are the times spent in the mountains, harvesting fresh produce from the ancestral land and making cheese in our dairy farm.
What do you think is the most essential ingredient in a Middle Eastern kitchen? Examples of dishes you use it in?
The sacred three: garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. But really allspice goes into almost everything I make.
Red meat or chicken? Favorite veggie?
Chicken. I also love minced meat but not any kind, it must be minced right in front of my eyes as these days you have no idea what has been put into the store-bought, plastic wrapped options.
A warm, ripe tomato is so versatile and incredibly satisfying.
How much do you prioritize cooking food from scratch?
It’s absolutely necessary for me. I know it frustrates some people because of modern-day time restraints and to many; it may sound like a somewhat arrogant comment. But in actuality, it’s incredibly easy and most often more affordable to cook from scratch. It really requires good planning. Time management is so important in life as in cooking. We plan everything else in our lives so why isn’t it as important to spend a few minutes planning what fuel we put in our body? Cooking from scratch needn’t be a four-hour affair in the kitchen, either. So many beautiful dishes can be thrown together from scratch in a matter of thirty-minutes, tops 1 hour. For example: Loubieh b Zeit, Moussaka, Djej bel Furn, burghul b banadoura.
What’s the most difficult meal you’ve ever cooked?
I find making Mehshe Selek quite tenuous in the sense that it takes some time to make such an incredibly moreish dish. But goodness, it’s still so worth the five-minutes those babies last.
What’s your “go-to” snack if you’re strapped for time?
Middle Easterners typically love hot drinks – what are your favorites?
I love yansoon if you mean teas. Laban Ayran is gorgeous and a healthy way to start the day.
Exclusive Recipe from DKS: Pomegranate & Za’atar Lamb Riblets
We wanted to share with our midEATS readers a special recipe from Dirty Kitchen Secrets. When we asked Bethany which one she’d like to share, she pointed out her post on Pomegranate & Za’atar Lamb Riblets. I was struck with the choice of flavor combinations – pomegranate molasses is zesty and sweet, za’atar is aromatic and savory, and lamb … is just succulent (of course depending on whom you ask – Brenda of midEATS isn’t the biggest fan, while Heba can eat lamb to her heart’s content). In any case, this recipe is an ideal example of fine Lebanese cuisine if there ever was one. As the weather starts to cool in many parts of the world, perhaps the best reaction is to fight the urge to stay in and cook some well-seasoned meat on a warm grill! Share your experience with this recipe in the comments below if you get a chance to try it!
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 2 hours
- 125ml/ 4 fl oz/ 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses (found in any Middle Eastern specialty shop & Whole Foods)
- 45ml/ 1 1/2 fl oz/ 3 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 4 tbsp za’atar (found in any Middle Eastern specialty shop & Whole Foods. Also try Steenbergs)
- 2 lamb riblets ( also called breast of lamb, Denver cut, Lamb spare ribs)- between 600g (1 lb 5 oz) to 900g (2 lb) each. 1 lamb riblet/breast contains about 7 ribs and ordered from your butcher. It will serve 1 to 2 people.
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Foil, for wrapping (about 50cm/ 20in in length)
- Heat the oven to 130C/250F/1G
- Mix together the pomegranate molasses, cider vinegar, allspice, cinnamon, garlic and za’atar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Take two sheets of foil, overlap them at their half point and place the ribs in the center, lenghtways, raising the edges of the foil to create an open parcel. Rub the lamb with a little salt and pepper and pour over about 1/3 of the pomegranate sauce, and coat all sides. Bring together the edges of the foil and seal into an airtight parcel. Repeat the same process for the other ribs. Place in a baking dish and cook in the center of the oven for 2 hours.
- Remove the baking dish from the oven, open the parcels and allow the ribs to cool in the juice/marinade.
- Transfer the juice/marinade from each parcel to a saucepan on med/high heat, bring to a boil and reduce to a thick sauce. Stir often.
- Heat a barbecue/grill/ griddle pan until hot, brush the ribs with the reduced sauce and grill until slightly charred.
- Serve immediately with Greek-yoghurt, Arabic bread and tabouleh.