I got this idea for salted, grilled, edamame-esque peas from Donal Skehan’s Facebook page during the week, and with bushes of peas in the garden and a barbecue planned for the evening, I had to give them a go – the idea combines two of my all-time favourite snacks: one eaten in the garden, alone, surreptitiously, on sunny days; the other eaten with friends in Japanese restaurants with BYOB beer, pods discarded all over the table.
I didn’t manage to get those lovely grill lines (too impatient; too impulsive; several peas ended up in the flames), but they tasted great: sweet, salty, crunchy, and, most importantly of all when you’re drinking beer, umami-savoury. They’d be great to have as a distraction in that 15 minutes while the coals are heating up and everyone is starting to lurk around the barbecue with that hungry look.
The reason baby vegetables taste so good grilled like this, according to JP McMahon, of the Irish Times, is the Maillard reaction, which occurs when amino acids and reducing sugars react together, giving that delicious browned, charred meat flavour that we all can’t help but love.
And when you think about it, fresh young peas are basically just amino acids and sugar standing up, which makes them a particularly good option for grilling.
While McMahon suggests that ‘nothing is more fun’ than taking a blowtorch to your baby courgettes, adding ‘it may seem a little excessive, and a tad dangerous, but the rewards in terms of taste and texture are delightful’, I think you get even more umami for your buck by doing them on your regular old barbecue grill, especially if you’re cooking meat alongside while you make them.
In terms of the type of pea, this idea works best with fresh, young sugar snap peas, although it’s also lovely with baby courgettes, mange tout peas or small broad beans. Simply brush each side with oil and cook at the edge of the grill for a few minutes. Once they have softened a little, flip them over and press each firmly into the bars of the grill with a pair of kitchen tongs.
Serve with a good scattering of sea salt, a little bowl of whipped feta, and cold glasses of beer.