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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{Culinary Experiments} Homemade Quiche with an alternative corn-flour crust

{Culinary Experiments} Homemade Quiche with an alternative corn-flour crust | By YaansoonStandard Quiche crusts are so complicated to make… it’s such a major turn off. I don’t want to become a Quiche expert; I just want a quick way to make a lovely tart. So here is my version for making Quiche with corn flour and olive oil – instead of wheat flour and butter.

Ever read or watched a Martha Stewart episode on making Quiche? Almost every Quiche crust out there is so complicated to make. You need to go through so many steps before putting the Quiche dough into the fridge, and the crust into the oven (which actually has to be done not once, but twice). But what if you love Quiche and want to make it quickly and with no hassle?

One day I decided to find an alternative Quiche that didn’t require all the kneading, rolling, putting into the fridge, waiting, poking holes with a fork, weighing down the dough with beans, and placing the crust in the oven. Then… out it goes, and you add the topping, then back into the oven, then wait again!

I wanted something way simpler… and so one day I found a recipe using olive oil (instead of the standard butter) and a straight-forward number of steps. No waiting was involved. That was my kind of thing! I didn’t save the recipe using Pinterest, so I ended up losing the original maker’s link. I am so sorry for that. I kept the recipe in my non-virtual cookbook, on my desktop, you see.

So, I pulled out that recipe and figured I could change one thing or two.

{Culinary Experiments} Homemade Quiche with an alternative corn-flour crust | By YaansoonUnderstanding Quiche Basics

Before I start, I need to say this.

There is a little science behind the Quiche. It has to do with the way you “layer” the ingredients. You must always have something, like a barrier, between the crust & the milk-egg mixture. This barrier can be any kind of grated cheese. If you decide to add a layer of stuffing, then the stuffing needs to go on top of the cheese. The last layer is the milk-egg mixture. Of course, there are Quiche recipes that use milk-cream-egg, but I opted for a lighter milk-egg version.

In this recipe I ventured out of the Quiche rule by letting go of the cheese, although according to many sources, this is a serious breech of Quiche etiquette. The reason is that cheese acts as a barrier that prevents the crust from getting soggy. I guess the fact I used not-so-refined corn flour helped in preventing the sogginess.

Another Quiche basic is the cream. You can use double cream, a mixture of milk and cream, and only milk. This needs to be beaten together with a few eggs. Now, you can add all sorts of herbs to this mixture, depending on your personal preference.

One last thing about the Quiche, is the stuffing. You can’t use raw veggies, they have to be sautéed, and the cool thing is that the ingredients are up to you; you can cook anything to your liking. But if you are using spinach, you need to discard of the water to prevent the sogginess of the crust.

{Culinary Experiments} Homemade Quiche with an alternative corn-flour crust | By YaansoonIngredients

Here’s what you need to make an alternative homemade Quiche:


  • Corn flour (1 cup)
  • Salt (1/2 tsp)
  • Olive oil (1/4 cup)
  • Ice-cold water (1/4 cup)… or you can use really cold water from the fridge


  • Olive oil (1-2 tbsp)
  • Garlic (1 bulb, diced)
  • Mushrooms (as much as you like, diced)
  • Broccoli (diced)
  • Salt (a pinch)
  • Ground black pepper


  • Eggs (2-3)
  • Milk (1 cup)
  • Baking Soda (1/2 tsp)
  • Herbs (a small dash of dried Oregano & Rosemary, fresh Parsley leaves)
  • Salt (a pinch)
  • Ground black pepper

Quiche How-to


In a big bowl, add a pinch of salt to the corn flour and mix.

In a separate bowl, add olive oil to ice-cold water, use a whisk to blend well and create a frothy vinaigrette-like liquid. Add liquid to corn flour and mix with hand until all corn flour looks oily. If you knead you will get a fragile dough.


In a saucepan, add garlic and sauté. Add the rest of the ingredients and sauté, then add the pinch of salt and black pepper. Set aside.


In a bowl, crack the eggs, blend. Add the milk, blend with a fork until well combined and a bit frothy. Add salt, Baking Soda, herbs, black pepper, blend.

{Culinary Experiments} Homemade Quiche with an alternative corn-flour crust | By YaansoonQuiche Layering

In a heat proof oven tray, spread a little oil on all sides and bottom. Drop the corn flour in equal quantities across the tray and press down with your fingers to create a semi-solid crust, bring a fork and poke holes in the different places carefully, without scattering around the flour. Otherwise press the flour back again with your fingers.

Spread the sautéed veggies on top of the dough. Then, pour the “cream” mixture in equal parts to fill up the tray.

Pop the tray into a medium-heat oven for about 15-20 minutes. You can check out the crust by cutting a small piece and tasting it. The “cream” mixture should be hard.

Serve with salad on the side, and…

Buon Appetito



{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