It’s that time of the year – the world renowned champagne vines on the “Squerryes Estate” in Kent are having their annual pruning after lying dormant during the cold winter months. We are lucky that we live in the middle of the estate surrounded by acres of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier vines. And I’ve been eyeing up the prunings.
Ever since I had a grilled meat epiphany in the Bordeaux as an impressionable young man – I have always desperately wanted to cook meat over vine prunings. 29 years ago an old farmer in the Bordeaux region invited me to his home after a rather exhausting day tasting his wine. We were both very hungry by the time we got to his old stone house.
He quickly piled a heap of very dry vine prunings from the previous year into his stone fireplace, lite them and after an initial flare, they settled down to a lovely 10 cm layer of hot aromatic coals. He quickly covered the coals with a cake cooling rack sitting on a couple of bricks and threw on a heavily seasoned piece of prime top rump beef – enough for four people. He turned it twice brushed on some butter and removed after about 8 minutes. After resting it was a perfect medium rare. He sliced it thinly on the bias and the flavour was like nothing I had ever had before. The vine branches had added a distinctive smoky, berry, citrusy note to the meat. Served with simple sautéed potatoes it was probably the best steak I had ever had ’till that time.
This is why we spent a very cold day yesterday in the vineyards in Kent collecting vine pruning. This summer we plan to cook a lot of our grills and burgers for the Deli Truck over these smokey clippings when they have dried out I hope it tastes as memorable as it did nearly 30 years ago.