Warak Enab are delicious stuffed grape leaves with lamb and stuffed zucchini making for a show stopping meal. It may take some time to roll all the grape leaves, but this recipe gives you step by step photos, and a video to follow along to make it an easy process to follow. It’ll feed a very happy crowd!
What does warak enab mean?
Warak Enab in Arabic translates literally to grape leaves. This recipe is for delicious Middle Eastern grape leaves stuffed with spiced rice and meat and slowly cooked into mouthwatering perfection alongside tender lamb chops in a tangy lemon broth.
Why should I make mahshi warak enab?
The flavors in this dish are like nothing you’ll have tried! The vine leaves get all nice and tangy from the lemony broth, the rice is all smushy and enhanced with the spices in the meat, it’s just a dish that you have to make at least once, and you’ll be so proud that you did.
I get excited anytime a family member makes warak enab. Stuffed vine leaves, or warak enab, are a delicious show stopping dish. The centerpiece for any special occasion, and proof of your mom or Tata’s love for you. Palestinians pride themselves on undergoing the arduous process it takes to prepare these, and the neater and tighter your vine leaves are, the more a source of pride it is.
Mine were not even remotely neat, but the delicious factor totally overshadows that. Not your typical 30 minute meal, and therefore not in the realm of my every day recipes, but making this once in a while is so worth it.
What are Stuffed Grape Leaves?
A very commonly eaten dish in the Mediterranean and Middle East, and a complete labor of love. Also known as stuffed vine leaves, grape leaves are filled with a rice mixture, and completed one of two ways. They are either vegetarian, or made with minced meat that’s been mixed into the rice stuffing. The vegetarian ones are more commonly eaten cold, and the meat version hot.
What are the ingredients for warak enab?
Rice: short grain Egyptian or calrose rice
Ground lamb: No need to cook this in advance, the ground meat will cook inside the vine leaves. You can also omit this if you want vegetarian warak enab. I use just a little because I like my recipe to be more rice intensive, but you can go up to 1lb (500g) of meat if you prefer.
Spices: seven spices, cinnamon, salt, pepper
Prepare your rice stuffing. This is made with short grain (Egyptian rice), raw ground lamb, and flavor enhancers. I add tomato, onion, garlic, parsley, and spices like seven spices (or all spice) and cinnamon. Salt and pepper of course, and a drizzle of olive oil.
I like my rice stuffing to be more about the rice and less about the meat, so I use less ground meat then some other recipes you might find, but feel free to adjust this amount upwards. You can use up to 500 g (1 lb) of ground lamb.
To assemble and for the broth:
Sliced potatoes and sliced tomatoes for lining the pan
Lamb chops or lamb neck pieces
Baby marrow (Summer squash) and eggplant for stuffing
Vine leaves: I get these either fresh if I can find them, or out of a jar. Regardless, you’ll need to drop them briefly into boiling water or soak them in hot water for a few minutes. This will get rid of their briny flavor if they are jarred, or cook them briefly if they are fresh.
Tomato paste (optional but helps add some flavor to the broth)
Water or broth: Either hot water or hot water with a vegetable or chicken stock cube dissolved in it.
How to roll warak enab:
Once your stuffing mixture is ready, prepare your vine leaves. Jarred vine leaves need to be soaked in hot water for a few minutes to lose some of their brininess. I’ve never made this with fresh vine leaves, because jarred ones are so easy to find and work with.
Once the vine leaves have soaked, drain them, and cut off the short knobby stem at the base of the leaves. The leaves might cling together, so separate them carefully, leaf by leaf.
The wide base of the leaf should be closest to you and the pointy top bit away from you. Place a heaped teaspoonful of the stuffing mixture in the center of the leaf, then roll the leaf, tucking in the sides, and rolling from the bottom over the stuffing, tucking in the sides of the leaf as you go, and rolling right up to the top till you have a tight little parcel. Picture a tortilla being rolled, making sure the sides tuck firmly in so it doesn’t fall apart.
If the vine leaf you are working with tears, don’t worry, just use another or try and patch up the tear by folding another part of the leaf over it.
This takes practice and a lot of time, but the end result makes you forget all that. The goal is to have the vine leaves rolled tightly enough so that they don’t fall apart in the lengthy cooking process.
Watch the video in the recipe card to see this in action!
Stuff the remaining vegetables in the dish:
To stuff the zucchini and eggplant, they need to be hollowed out with a zucchini corer, scraping as much of the interior as you can out of them, but carefully so they don’t break. These should be stuffed with rice 3/4 full. This post here gives a lot more tips on that.
For a great recipe using the cored baby marrow, try making these baby marrow fritters. They are SO good.
How to cook warak enab:
The key is a low and slow cook, in order to make sure that the raw rice inside the stuffed grape leaves and stuff vegetables cooks through. The way you do this is to make sure that you have enough broth coming up to the top of the pot to submerge the vine leaves.
Once broth comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for anywhere between 1.5-2 hours (even longer if you need)! Start checking at 1 hr and 15 minutes. When the vine leaves and vegetables are soft and rice is cooked through, add the lemon juice and simmer for another 15 minutes. Then it’s ready!
What to serve Warak Enab with:
My favorite thing to eat grape leaves with is yogurt. Trust me! You can do plain yogurt or a yogurt with mint and cucumbers, recipe here. You can also do a light salad. This is a heavy meal in its own right, so anything you serve this with should be very simple.
Storing leftover grape leaves:
Store leftover unstuffed grape leaves in their brine if you got them out of the jar. If you used fresh ones, blanch them for a minute in hot water, then transfer to an ice bath to cool. Squeeze out any excess water and freeze bundles of grape leaves in air tight freezer bags. They’ll last up to 6 months, and will thaw in minutes.
Store the stuffed warak enab in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Eat either cold or warmed up. You can also freeze them either cooked or uncooked for up to 3 months.
Yes! Just omit the meat from the filling and don’t layer any lamb chops or lamb neck pieces in the pot when cooking. You can use the rice stuffing recipe in this recipe for a different flavored filling too.
How do I know when the warak are done cooking?
They will be soft and tender, and the rice will be cooked through. Try one and see! Keep them on as long as you need to in order to have them cook through.
Can I freeze leftover stuffed grape leaves?
Yes. After cooling, freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months, or freeze them rolled and uncooked for the same amount of time.
Stuffed Grape Leaves with Meat – Warak Enab
For the rice stuffing:
- 1.5 cups Egyptian rice (short grain rice)
- 1-2 small tomato, very finely diced
- 1-2 small onion, very finely diced,
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1.5 teaspoon seven spices or all spice
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 200 g ground lamb
- 1 jar vine leaves (450 g or 1 lb)
- 6-8 zucchini (koosa), cored
- 2-3 eggplants, cored
- 2 tomatoes sliced
- 2 potatoes sliced
- 1 lb lamb chops or lamb neck pieces 1/2 kg
- salt and pepper to taste
- olive oil
- 3 lemons, juiced
- 2-3 tablespoon tomato paste
- boiling water to cover the the stuffed grape leaves (or vegetable or chicken broth)
For the rice stuffing:
- Soak the Egyptian rice for 20 minutes or so, then rinse with cold water until water runs clear.
- Place rice in a large bowl and add the tomato, onion, parsley, garlic, spices, and olive oil and stir well to combine. Add the raw minced lamb, and stir to evenly incorporate into the rice mixture. It might be easier to use your hands to work the meat into the rice.
- Place the vine leaves in a bowl of hot water for 3 minutes. This helps them lose a little of the brininess. Drain, and gently separate vine leaves.
- Stuff the cored zucchini and eggplant until 3/4 filled with rice. Use your finger to pack them firmly. Set aside.
- Stuff the vine leaves by placing an individual leaf with the tip pointing upwards, placing a heaped teaspoon of the rice stuffing in the center of the vine leave, folding sides towards the center, then rolling from the bottom upwards, tucking in the sides of the vine leaves as you go. It's like you're making a sandwich wrap. Keep going until you've finished all the stuffing.
- Place a layer of tomatoes at the bottom of a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Layer your potato slices on top of the tomato. This will keep the vine leaves touching the bottom of the pan from burning, plus they are delicious.
- Season the lamb chops or lamb neck with salt and pepper, and place on top of the potato slices.
- Place the stuffed zucchini and eggplant in a ring around the circumference of the pot, then gently place the stuffed vine leaves in an even layer filling the rest of the pot, like pictured above.
- Drizzle olive oil over the top of the filled pot. Add boiling water to the pot, pouring at the edge of the pot until the water just comes to the top layer of the vine leaves- the top layer shouldn't be submerged. Sprinkle with salt to season. Place a plate on top of the vine leaves to hold them down so the vine leaves don't float around while cooking. Cover the pot with a tightly fitting lid.
- Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and let the fluid in the pot come to a simmer. Simmer for anywhere between 1.5-2.5 hours, or until vine leaves and stuffed vegetables are cooked through and the rice inside is cooked through. Start checking at the 1 hour mark. 15 minutes before you take the pot off the heat, add the lemon juice.
- Once the meal is ready, flip the vine leaves onto a large serving plate carefully, make sure it has higher edges because a lot of broth will come out. Serve immediately and enjoy with some yogurt on the side. These are also very tasty at room temperature or cold!
For more classic Middle Eastern Recipes:
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