Top | Cooking With Wine

Spiced Beef Kebabs

(recipe, Anne Willan)

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I don’t associate Asian cooking with wine, but of course rice wine does play a small but significant role in seasoning mixtures like this all-purpose marinade, which is good with pork and chicken as well as beef. No matter what the meat, rice pilaf is right with kebabs. Although a purist might insist on a rice-based wine here, the tiny amount needed for the marinade means that no one will notice if you substitute an equal measure of medium sherry or even sweet vermouth. When the kebabs come off the grill, a red wine of sufficient character is needed to match their spicy, charbroiled flavors. Spain provides many zesty reds from Mourvèdre, the country’s second most widely planted grape. California vintners have also started making Mourvèdre, or you can fall back with confidence on that all-time favorite of the barbecue set — California Zinfandel.


    For the kebabs
    1. 12 wooden kebab skewers
    2. 1½ lb. (750 g) boneless fillet of sirloin
    3. 3 to 4 onions
    4. 18 to 24 cherry tomatoes
    5. Salt
    For the marinade
    1. 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    2. ½ tsp. hot red-pepper flakes
    3. 2 tsp. ground coriander
    4. 2 tsp. ground ginger
    5. 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
    6. ¼ cup (60 ml/2 fl. oz.) sweet rice wine
    7. 2 Tbsp. peanut oil


    1. Prep the kebabs: Soak the skewers in a tray of water to dampen them and avoid splinters. Trim the fat and any sinew from the beef and cut it in 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes. Peel the onions, leaving a little of the root, and cut each in 8 wedges. To parboil them: immerse the wedges in a pan of cold, salted water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
    2. To assemble the kebabs, drain the skewers and divide the beef, onions, and tomatoes in 8 even portions. Impale them on the skewers, separating cubes of beef with onions and tomatoes. Lay the skewers in a shallow, non-metallic tray.
    3. Make the marinade: Mix the garlic, chile pepper, coriander, and ginger in a small bowl, and whisk in the soy sauce, rice wine, and oil. Pour the marinade over the kebabs and turn them so they are evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2, and up to 6 hours, turning the skewers occasionally.
    4. Grill the kebabs: Light up the barbecue or broiler. Drain the kebabs and reserve the marinade in a small bowl for basting. Grill the kebabs about 2½ inches (6 cm) from the heat until they start to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn, baste with marinade, and continue grilling, turning and basting often, until the kebabs are evenly browned and cooked rare or medium, depending on your taste. Allow 5 to 7 minutes total cooking time for rare beef and 8 to 10 minutes for medium done. Set the skewers on a bed of rice on a platter or plates for serving.