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Lebanese Warak Enab (Stuffed Vine Leaves)

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Join me in cooking Warak Enab, the cozy, traditional Lebanese dish that's perfect for sharing
PREP TIME
1 hour 20 minutes
COOK TIME
3 hours
SERVES
6-8

About this recipe

Warak Enab takes me back to my childhood kitchen, where my family would come together to make this much-loved dish. Warak Enab, for those unfamiliar, consists of vine leaves stuffed with a savoury blend of spiced rice and lamb mince, though there’s a delightful vegetarian version as well. It’s a recipe that’s all about home; when my mum or mother-in-law makes it, it’s an instant call to gather and enjoy. With a big family like mine, making Warak Enab was a team effort – one would mix the stuffing, another would boil the leaves, and someone else would roll them up.

This dish is a full meal, not just a side – it fills you up and warms your heart. It’s as satisfying as my signature Maqloubi, the rice pilaf that turns dinner into a celebration. And if you love a sweet finish, my Baklawa or creamy Shaybiyat are just the treats.

The Warak Enab I’m sharing here is easy to make, thanks to a recipe from my mother-in-law. It’s quicker than my mum’s, which cooks for nearly a day! But I promise, it’s just as tasty. Warak Enab is made to be shared – it’s perfect for when you have friends or family around. And the only way to truly savour it is to wrap a vine leaf in a piece of flatbread, add a sliver of garlic and a fresh mint leaf, and dip it into the rich juices at the bottom of the dish. It’s one of the best things you’ll eat, and I’m excited to show you how to make it. Let’s get started!

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Ingredients

  • 350 grams fresh green vine leaves (see notes for jar)
  • 1.5 kg lamb chops
  • 3 cups short-grain rice
  • 300 grams raw lamb mince
  • 2 teaspoons bharat spice mix, plus 1 extra teaspoon for boiling meat
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4-6 tablespoons lemon juice
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Notes from Rouba

  • To make the Warak Enab process manageable, remember that you don’t need to do everything at once. It’s perfectly fine to prepare the components ahead of time to keep it organized. For example, the vine leaves can be rolled up to 2 days before you actually cook them and kept in the fridge. This can be a great time-saver and helps in dividing the workload.
  • When stuffing the leaves, be careful not to overstuff or understuff them. A heaped teaspoon of filling is usually ideal, but keep in mind that the size of the leaves can vary. Check out the photo I’ve provided for a better idea.
  • Blanching the leaves is an absolute must, even if you’re using leaves from a jar.
  • Remember, when you’re rolling, the dull, veiny side of the leaf should face upwards with the stuffing, while the shiny, smooth side should be on the outside. This not only makes them look better but also affects the texture after they’re cooked.

Method

Step 1.

Begin by thoroughly washing the lamb chops.

In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add 1 teaspoon of bharat along with some salt. Add the lamb chops to the boiling water. Cook until the meat is tender, skimming off any foam that forms on the surface (this will take approximately 30-40 minutes)

Once cooked, drain the meat using a sieve, reserving the broth and discarding any residue left in the sieve.

Step 2.

Soak the rice in water for 20 minutes. Rinse under cold water until it runs clear to remove excess starch.

In a large bowl, combine the soaked rice, raw lamb mince, 2 teaspoons of bharat, salt, and olive oil. Mix thoroughly, preferably with your hands, to ensure the meat is well integrated with the rice.

Step 3.

While the meat is cooking, prepare your vine leaves. Remove the stems and stack them neatly for blanching. Create 4 stacks.

Dip each stack into boiling water for about 2 seconds per side. This will soften the leaves and make them pliable for rolling.

Step 4.

Lay a vine leaf flat on a surface. The dull, veiny side of the leaf should face upwards with the stuffing. Place a heaped teaspoon of the filling in the center of the leaf.

Fold in the sides and roll up the leaf, making sure it's snug but not too tight to prevent tearing.

Step 5.

Place the boiled lamb chops at the bottom of a deep pot.  Arrange the rolled vine leaves tightly around the chops, filling in any gaps to create a compact layer.

Pour 6 cups of the reserved lamb stock gently over the stuffed vine leaves until they are just covered.

Step 6.

Place a heavy weight on top of the vine leaves to keep them submerged while cooking. Find a ceramic plate that is just a bit smaller than the size of the pot and place it upside down over the leaves. Then, top the plate with a bowl filled with water for additional weight. This setup ensures the vine leaves are evenly pressed and cook perfectly.

Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes with the weight on.
After 45 minutes, remove the weight, cover the pot with a lid, and continue to cook for an additional 2 hours or until the rolls are soft and fully cooked.

Sahtan - Enjoy in Good Health

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Creating magic and happy memories with food are my gift for you!
xx Rouba

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