Wine & Food Killers: Chapli Kebabs and Strekov 1075 Fred #9

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the main courses we serve during the holidays: the enormous bronze turkeys, the resplendently glazed hams, the hearty legs of lamb, even the occasional goose or duck, dribbling with rendered fat…

There’s a pomp and ceremony to these dishes – see them brought on heaving platters to the table, carved before your eyes, and it’s hard not to feel the sense of occasion. But there can also be significant stress in preparing these dishes (just look at all the “how to” articles on the internet for evidence), not to mention financial pressure. This year, I’m advocating for a festive main course that feels less, well, main – one that’s simple and adaptable, but also delicious.

I love these chapli kebabs for that reason. Make them with beef mince or lamb, or even use a meat-free alternative like Beyond; whichever base you use, they’re flavoured with warming spices, fistfuls of aromatics, and enough chilli to give them a moderate heat (though you can dial that back). You can serve them alongside zesty salads, with flatbread or alongside vege sides. They’re guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser.

They’re also a guaranteed match with Strekov 1075 Fred #9, a delightfully rich red that is equally befitting a holiday table. Hailing from Slovakia and made with lesser-known and hybrid grape varietals, including Blauer Portugieser, Alibernet and Dunaj, this has enough earthiness to give it depth (plus a whisper of allspice aromatics) and a cheery punch of red fruit to supply the requisite jollity. It handles the spice of the kebabs with ease; they in turn amplify its cherry notes.

Together, they have the makings of an ideal holiday dinner, one that might break a little from tradition, but works all the better for it.

Chapli Kebabs

Loosely adapted from Tea for Turmeric
Serves 4-6

For the chapli kebabs:

2 plum tomatoes, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
Fine sea salt, to taste
1 bunch spring onions, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 2-inch piece ginger, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
30g coriander, finely chopped
2-3 jalapeños, seeded and minced
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon chilli powder (optional)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons flour
500g 15% or 20% fat beef mince (or Beyond mince)
150ml vegetable oil

For the yoghurt sauce:
150g Greek yoghurt
Juice of 1 lemon
Small handful mint leaves, finely chopped
Fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To serve:
Flatbread of your choice
Small handful mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1. First, prepare the kebabs. Place a fine-meshed sieve over a bowl and add the tomatoes. Sprinkle lightly with salt and mix with a spoon. Leave to drain any excess liquid for 10-15 minutes, pressing down with the spatula so as much moisture is drained as possible. Transfer the tomatoes to the bowl of a stand mixer, or to a large mixing bowl.

2. Next, add the spring onions, red onion, ginger, garlic, coriander, jalapeños, spices, egg, flour and beef (or Beyond) mix to the same bowl, as well as 2 teaspoons of fine sea salt. If using a stand mixer, fit it with the paddle attachment and mix on high for 2-3 minutes, or until the ingredients are very well incorporated and the beef is starting to form wispy strands. If using a mixing bowl, knead aggressively until very well combined.

3. Form the kebabs into 90g balls, and pat so they’re slightly flattened. Place on a baking-paper-lined tray and transfer to the refrigerator. Leave to chill and firm for 30 minutes–1 hour.

4. While the kebabs are chilling, make the yoghurt sauce. Add all ingredients to a medium bowl and mix well, adjusting seasoning to taste. You can also add water, one tablespoon at a time, to thin it out to a looser consistency, if preferred.

5. When the kebabs are ready to cook, place a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat and add the vegetable oil (you want to add enough oil so the bottom of the frying pan is completely covered in a thin layer; add more if necessary). Once hot, add two or three kebabs and press down firmly with a spatula until flattened. Cook undisturbed for 2-3 minutes, or until well browned on the base, before flipping. Press down with the spatula to flatten further and cook for 2-3 minutes more, or until browned on the reverse and cooked through. Repeat with the remaining batches until all kebabs are cooked.

6. To serve, place your kebabs on top of warmed flatbread and drizzle over the yoghurt sauce. Garnish with mint and red onion slices, and serve right away.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer and wine hound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen. Don’t miss out on Claire’s wine and food pairings, which go out every month in our Natural Wine Killers subscription box.