Middle Eastern Stuffed Grape Leaves: Warak Enab vs Yalanji | New Oil Painting

Middle Eastern Stuffed Grape Leaves: Warak Enab vs Yalanji | New Oil Painting by Yaansoon IllustrationMaking stuffed grape vine leaves is probably one of the most time-consuming dishes in the Middle Eastern cuisine, but it also is one of the most delicious! Served hot with a dab of chilled yogurt on the side, many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern households cook this delicious dish on special occasions, or from time to time, as it most certainly is not your quick, every-day, go-to dish.

Although I am a serious foodie and cooking aficionado, I am quite impatient in the kitchen, a vice I am trying so hard to let go of. That’s why, creating an oil painting with my impressions of one of my most favourite dishes is more like the thing I would spend my afternoon doing. I guess I’d rather create art than spend the time creating this mouth-watering dish on a hot summer day!

This is the second canvas art I make after “discovering” my oil painting style. In a previous post, I spoke about how I finally found my oil painting style after taking a mini social-media and life-in-general break to really free myself from any distractions that may have been affecting my illustration style. I also got the chance to experiment with new materials, including a Cobalt Siccative medium that quickens the drying time of paint – by French manufacturer, Pébéo.

Middle Eastern Stuffed Grape Leaves: Warak Enab vs Yalanji | New Oil Painting by Yaansoon IllustrationThe Many Names of ‘Stuffed Grape Leaves’

There’s a bit of a confusion over the internet with regards to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern name variations of the stuffed grape leaves dish, or shall I say, dishes.

There are actually two main dishes that use grape leaves with some kind of stuffing in both the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Cuisines:

One is served hot and comes with a minced meat and rice stuffing (and is usually cooked with fat or Middle Eastern ghee, aka Samneh). And the other is usually served at room temperature or even cold, and comes with a rice and vegetarian stuffing, and is generally cooked in olive oil.

  • Where I come from, we call the hot dish Warak Enab, and that is the dish depicted in today’s painting. Other people call it Mehshi Warak Enab or Warak Enab Mehshi – Mehshi being the word for “stuffed.” In Syria for instance, they call it Yabrak.
  • We also call the oil-based dish Yalanji, which is the Turkish word for this savoury dish originating in this beautiful Euro-Asian country. Now, if you stuff other vegetables (like aubergine or eggplants) with the vegetarian oil-based stuffing the whole dish becomes Dolma, in Turkish.

Middle Eastern Stuffed Grape Leaves: Warak Enab vs Yalanji | New Oil Painting by Yaansoon IllustrationRecipes for Warak Enab, Yalanji… and Dolmathakia

Here is an excellent post by a blog I discovered recently, Orange Blossom Water, on Warak Enab and Yalanji.

And here is another lovely blog by a Lebanese lady, dubbed “Rose Water & Orange Blossoms,” where you can find authentic ways to clean and store fresh grape leaves, learn the technique to roll grape leaves, make Lebanese Warak Enab and Yalanji-style vegetarian grape leaf rolls. The last recipe uses chickpeas in the stuffing, which is also common in Turkey, but the recipe my grandmother and family uses has no chickpeas. This is how versatile and truly vast the Middle Eastern cuisine is!

I also found several other Greek and Armenian variations over the internet for the oil-based stuffed leaves dish. The Greek have a different recipe for Yalanji, which they like to call Dolmathakia. Instead of diced vegetables and rice, they keep it simple with rice, onions and herbs including dill, which is a Greek cuisine staple. Quick note… Dill isn’t used at all in the Lebanese and Syrian cuisines. I think it’s a new comer, and we may have the Egyptians to thank for bringing the Dill herb into the Middle Eastern pantry, thanks to their proximity to other Mediterranean nations.

So… do you have a stuffed grape leaves dish from your culture that you would like to share with us today? Please feel free to share your recipes, thoughts, and links in the comments box below!

Meanwhile, take care and I look forward to seeing you in my next post!

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New in My Etsy Shop: Printable Hand-Illustrated Recipe Cards

New in My Etsy Shop: Printable Hand-Illustrated Recipe CardsAll of us have certain obsessions in life; mine include recipe cards, cook books, culinary motifs, and botanical illustrations. I’m also obsessed with Pantone’s colors of the year: Rose-Quartz Pink & Serenity-Blue. In this illustrated design, I am inspired by these two obsessions together!

To me, recipe cards are more than just a way to keep your recipes organized. They help get your creative juices flowing, especially that cooking, after all, is a form of creative energy that needs continuous nurturing to keep you interested! This of course includes pretty stationery that makes you want to cook and experiment with new recipes!

A couple of days ago, I decided to revisit one of my old cookie recipes (jotted down on an ugly piece of paper). I made the mistake while mixing the dry ingredients, by adding the sugar to the flour and the baking soda. At that point I decided to improvise to salvage the recipe, and after taking them out of the oven, my cookies tasted divine. They were the best cookies I’ve ever made!

New in My Etsy Shop: Printable Hand-Illustrated Recipe CardsTo celebrate, I decided to create new printable recipe cards for happy mistakes like this one – and as part of a decision to re-write all of my recipes on pretty stationery, instead of the unappetizing worn-out notebooks they were in. My husband saw the recipe cards and fell in love with them and suggested I put them up in my Etsy shop.

My two printable recipe cards come in two colors – that I later realized were inspired by Pantone’s colors of the year 2016. I’m so in love with combinations of pink and blue and although the blue shade I have used is not 100% Serenity-Blue I am happy with the results, to be found in the following links:

The cards are also in a standard 4×6″ and are easy to trim using the crop marks that I have included in the design.

New in My Etsy Shop: Printable Hand-Illustrated Recipe CardsI had great fun creating the original illustration (in the picture below), inspired by a previous chalkboard illustration I had created for Christmas.

New in My Etsy Shop: Printable Hand-Illustrated Recipe CardsThese cards are perfect for re-launching or expanding one’s recipe card collection, and as a bridal shower gift for a friend who might be getting married in the Spring!

I hope you enjoyed this post and looking forward to seeing you all in my next one!


KEY WORDS: Recipe Cards Printable 4×6 | Serenity Blue, Rose-Quartz Pink, Instant Download, Floral, Botanical, Hand-Illustrated, Kitchen Cook Book, Spring Wedding, DIY


The Real Bread: What it Once Was

Handmade sourdough bread #organicItaly is home to hundreds of ‘artisan breads’ made from a homemade slow yeast (not the supermarket-bought yeast). My husband is an expert bread maker. This is his first-ever post on our blog and it’s about his passion for organic handmade bread.

I like the homemade bread made with sourdough (also called mother’s yeast); I have always been fascinated by the way this bread is made, so I decided to make it at home. I started with a recipe for sourdough found on the internet, with explanations from a skilled baker.

The Starter - Vimeo 2I wanted to make bread as it was made in old times, with the materials and methods handed down for generations in different areas of Italy. I used organic whole wheat flour (that consisted of both durum wheat and soft wheat) and that was stone-ground. I also used spring water that I took regularly from the various natural springs during my tours in the mountains of Abruzzo.

bread-grain-kitchen-bakery_2Even the salt was integral and handpicked, from the salt mine in Sicily. After several attempts, I managed to make bread the way I wanted, and guarded it in a cotton cloth in a wooden box. It was really yummy; it was enough to open the box to smell the bread even after a week. It is a tasty bread made with natural ingredients only. Since then I never missed the “real bread” in my house. It was not only delicious and healthy, but it made me feel connected to a know-how and an ancient tradition that was about to disappear.

A view of Barrea lake in Abruzzo, Italy
A view of Barrea lake in Abruzzo, Italy

This post was written in Italian and translated to English. The original Italian text will be posted on this blog in the near future, as we are introducing Italian content to our blog.


The Italian post can be found in post dubbed, Il pane vero: quello di una volta

{Styling Inspiration} Celebrating the colour green

Green terrarium

This morning, I had fun looking at photos dotted with the colour green; of leaves, plants, botanical arrangements & photo styling ideas. This inspired me to change the banner of this blog into something more representative of Yaansoon, although we’re still not officially launched.

Here are a few photos from around Pinterest, that are about the color Green.

  • What I like about the photo {below}: The lay-out
  • Why: A few leaves on a white background,  and some Photoshop-inserted type. This is a cool idea for other types of product photography.
 Recipe :: Spring Greens with Crispy Potatoes, Herbs & Asparagus Recipe, herbalSource: nicolefranzen.blogspot.com via Yaansoon on Pinterest
  • What I like {below}: The wooden bowl and leaves inside
  • Why: This is an interesting idea to develop. Using wooden bowls with product photo-shoots can be a good idea
a shop previewSource: herriottgrace.com via Yaansoon on Pinterest
  • What I like {below}: The darkish photo tones
  • Why: The green colour of the lettuce is a nice contrast with the darkish wooden cutting board and background
www.agentbauer.comSource: agentbauer.com via Yaansoon on Pinterest
  • What I like {below}: The element of surprise, and artistic innovation
  • Why: A leaf you see everyday on the ground is transformed into a work of art with a touch of bordering crochet. This crocheted leaf | By Susanna Bauer | is the kind of work that reflects a high sense of curiosity and originality
A crocheted leaf | By Susanna Bauer | www.susannabauer.comSource: susannabauer.com via Yaansoon on Pinterest
  • What I like: A single leaf on a white plate
  • Why: Inspiring colour combination with the rest of the elements…
kara rosenlund holiday place cardSource: kararosenlund.com via Yaansoon on Pinterest

Olives… love Olives

Olive tree branchSource: bersabutik.blogspot.in via Yaansoon on Pinterest

If you live in the Mediterranean area then you must know how important this tree, of olives, is to us over here. Olive oil is not only tasty, it’s a healing balm. Olives are used in endless recipes, and they are simply beautiful to look at… and I love making olive illustrations, that’s why I included them here.

Olive tree | ZaraSource: zara.com via Yaansoon on Pinterest

And here’s a photo of a photo, of olive branches…

Olive tree | via IKEA Livet HemmaSource: stilinspiration.blogspot.com via Yaansoon on Pinterest

I hope you enjoyed my Green tour… more inspiration to come in future posts… take care!


Image Credit for 1st photo in this post: macnettles.com via Yaansoon on Pinterest