Warak Enab aka Grapeleaves are a Middle Eastern spiced rice and meat filled grapeleaves (hence the name)! It is one of my absolute favorites, if not, my favorite meal (along with malfouf)! I usually make these on the stove in a large pot but I’ve had some success with instant pot lately and I was tight on time so these are some instant pot grapeleaves.
My memory of my grandmother, Seto is what I called her, is tied to this dish. She had an amazing ability as a home chef for her large family and that continued even after immigrating to the US and she would feed her grandkids these beautiful, elaborate, traditional meals. I have a lot to say about her…I’ll save that for another post. For now, I will say Inna Lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un (“We surely belong to Allah and to Him we shall return”).
In my heart, I dedicate every grapeleaves dish I make to my Seto and make du’aa for her before each bite alhamduallah.
- 2 jars grapeleaves, found at any Arabic grocery store and some Whole Foods
- 3/4 pound organic ground beef
- 2 cups rice, soaked and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon dried mint
- 1 tablespoon Seven Spice, found at any Arabic grocery store
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chicken concentrate, I use “Better than Bouillon” from Costco…alternatively you can grate 3 Maagi dried chicken cubes
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped into fine pieces
- 4 cups water
- 1 can tomato sauce
- 6-10 garlic cloves (for layering amongst the layers once you put the grapeleaves in the instant pot)
- Remove grapeleaves from jar and rinse with cold water in a colander, you are trying to rid the brine/salty flavor from them. Set aside on a large platter.
- Soak rice in a large bowl with water and rinse in a sieve until water runs clear. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, add ground beef, rice, olive oil, canola oil, parsley, salt, mint, turmeric, seven spice, pepper, chicken broth concentrate or cubes and mix with hands (use gloves if you like) until incorporated.
- Grab a plate that you’ll be rolling your grapeleaves on and a sharp steak knife because there might be excess stems or veins you’ll need to cut off your grapeleaves. Take the platter to a table and have a seat for the rolling process. This can take a while so it’s best to be comfortable.
- Take a single grapeleaf and lay it vein side up, leafs pointing upwards and away from you, if there is a stem carefully cut it off.
- Take about 1 teaspoon to 1 1/2 teaspoons of rice/meat mixture and place it at the base where the stem would be and spread it long ways and don’t push it together because the rice will not cook evenly. There should be a bit of separation in the mixture but don’t worry, once you start rolling it will be packed and stay together.
- Your first motion will be to fold the bottom of the grapeleaf up and over the rice/meat mixture one time. Then fold in the sides of the grapeleaf over that first rolled part and make it sealed. Then roll, roll, roll very tight until you run out of grapeleaf.
- Repeat until you run out of grapeleaves.
- Boil water and can of tomato sauce in a large pot over medium high heat.
- In your instant pot, lay any leftover or discarded grapeleaves at the bottom in a single layer. Alternatively, you can layer 4-5 boneless chicken thighs at the bottom (I love this method because you don’t have to season the chicken thighs and they will taste phenomenally).
- Begin layering your grapeleaves on top of your leftover grapeleaves or chicken thighs by starting on the outside and working your way in. They should be tight together and make sure they stay rolled tightly too.
- With each layer you make, add a garlic clove or 2.
- By the time you’ve filled your instant pot, your water/tomato mixture should be boiling. Insert your pot into your instant pot machine, invert a ceramic and heat safe dish (plate) that fits correctly on top of the grapeleaves and lightly press down.
- Pour the water/tomato mixture slowly on top of your grapeleaves until they are just covered.
- Close instant pot and cook on high pressure for 1 hour.
- Allow natural release for 10 minutes and then manual pressure release.
- Grab a large heat safe bowl or pot, with oven mitts, grip the sides of the pot and slowly pour out the water/tomato mixture. Hello soup appetizer!
- Grab a large flat platter and place on top of the instant pot, with oven mitts still on, invert the instant pot and platter (grab a buddy if this is your first time doing something like this)!
- Your platter should be placed on a hard flat surface now and slowly move your instant pot up and away. The grapeleaves (and chicken thighs if you used them) will fall to the platter and there will definitely be steam so be careful.
- Allow grapeleaves to rest 5-10 minutes before serving. Garnish with sliced lemon and encourage a squeeze or 2 for your guests, they are so tasty this way.
- Serve tomato soup from your cook in a bowl and grapeleaves on a plate. Enjoy!