Stuffed vine leaves

Stuffed vine leaves

Cairo Kitchen
Jonathan Gregson

In season, fresh vine leaves can be found all over the markets and are used to make these stuffed vine leaves. When fresh vine leaves cannot be found, brined ones can be used. Stuffed vine leaves, or ‘warak enab’ as they are known in Egypt, are a labour-intensive dish to prepare, but one that is much appreciated by most Egyptians. Women take pride in the precision and delicacy of their stuffed vine leaves and showcase their talents to family and friends.


Quantity Ingredient
150g short-grain rice
30 vines leaves, either fresh or brined
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tomato, diced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
100ml olive oil, plus extra to serve
5 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus extra to serve
1 litre vegetable stock, hot
freshly ground black pepper


  1. Wash the rice under cold running water, then soak in fresh water for about half an hour.
  2. If you’re using fresh vine leaves, quickly blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds, then drain and refresh under cold running water. If you’re using pickled vine leaves, rinse several times to remove the brine.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the drained rice, allspice, cumin, tomato, parsley, mint and olive oil and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Set the mixture aside.
  4. If the vine leaves are small, leave them intact, but cut out the large centre vein. If the leaves are large, cut them in half vertically, cutting out the large vein in the process. Place a heaped teaspoonful of the rice mixture at the end of one leaf. Fold the end of the leaf over the rice to enclose, and then fold over the sides to prevent any mixture escaping. Tightly roll the vine leaf into a cylinder shape, then continue with the remaining leaves and mixture.
  5. Pack the stuffed vine leaves tightly into a pot, seam side down and in a single layer, and then continue to layer up the stuffed vine leaves, placing the whole garlic cloves randomly between the rolled leaves in each layer.
  6. When you are done stacking, pour the lemon juice over the leaves and add the hot stock to the pot until the stock is about 5cm above the rolled leaves. To prevent the leaves from unrolling during cooking, place a plate on top of the stack of leaves and a heavy object, such as a can of beans, on top of the plate.
  7. Simmer the stuffed leaves over a low heat for about 1½ hours or until the rice is cooked and the stock has been absorbed.
  8. Remove the weight and plate from the top of the vine leaves. Place a large plate or serving dish over the top of the pan and carefully turn the pan over and the vine leaves out onto the plate.
  9. The stuffed leaves can be served hot as part of a meal or set aside to let cool before serving as mezza. When you are ready to serve, drizzle over more olive oil and lemon juice.
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