Turn up the heat indoors

It’s slowly getting cooler, it’s certainly a lot wetter. The recent rain means I’m able to get my fork and spade into the ground without hearing a metallic clang as the metal hits cracked dry earth, and that’s despite the mulching! A wonderful morning session, the first in a week, meant I started to prepare the garlic bed for it’s occupants in November. Weeding and clearing debris on a warm but overcast day felt good. No, good doesn’t do that justice, it felt right it felt like, for once, I was actually prepared and ready for the on coming of winter. Well that’s stretching it a bit too far, it’s one job I’m nearly ready for. Whcih as it’s been postively hectic around here is a resounding result!

At home I’m starting to harvest the chillies, it’s been a slow year for them, not enough sustained heat no big bumper crops but certainly something to enjoy. I’m going to overwinter a few of the plants, first I’ll empty the pots out clean them and then re–fresh with new compost. They will over-winter well here on a light sunny windowsill. they don’t necessarily need heat, just to be out of frost and damp that winter brings. I’ll water them sparingly, pick the chillies as they ripen and then as the days get longer and warmer in Spring, back outside they go.

The chillies are all either eaten fresh or picked and frozen whole. they last brilliantly in containers in the freezer, keeping their shape, colour and flavour. And as you will see from the recipe, I need to add jalapeno to my growing list next year. We have re-discovered them, thanks to our local Turkish shop who sell them in jars, pickled in a brine. Delicious,a lovely warmth not a big ker-pow hit of heat like the little red and green Thai chillies, totally different from the smokey-pepeer heat of the Cayenne Chillies. variety is the spice of life 🙂

It’s been busy around here – work-schwork, meetings-schmeetings. Ooooph, I’m looking forward to my Devon break ! But none of that has anything to do with what I’m writing about today – you see in amongst all that busy we try and cook a good meal, sometimes healthy and but always with an eye to the  interesting. Burritos were mentioned and A Plan formed. Peppers, limes,  coriander, sour cream., cheese and jalapeno were bought.

The trouble was that The Plan frankly should have started 12 hours earlier so that the Pinto beans could be soaked. We soaked them for a paltry 4-5 hours, nowhere near enough – rapid boiled, boiled, simmered, we kept checking and nope they were still rock solid. Oh and we probably should have started cooking a lot earlier too!

Plan b) was created and after raiding the cupboard pulled out a can of black-eye peas. They worked a treat and we managed to eat our Burritos, late, but we did eat and enjoy them. The only problem was that it left a pan of half-cooked Pintos to deal with.

Plan c) emerged after checking a couple of favourite cookery books for inspiration. Madhur Jaffrey did us proud with her Costa Rican Bean Soup. A heady mix of beans, peppers and coriander. The recipe uses a lot of coriander as its main flavour, for me it totally works – I love coriander.

Finally, 2 days later we got to make and eat our pinto beans. But out of a mini-disaster came a triumph. A truly tasty wintery warming soup. My partner isn’t a great fan of soups, I can’t quite understand why not, maybe too many dull soups in the past have passed  his lips. This one was a winner.

So if you want a bean soup  start early or open a can of beans.

Costa Rican Black Bean Soup – Albertina Brenes de Estrada and Ada Bassey

Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian – serves 4

Cooking the beans –

  • Can of black or Pinto beans
  • 2 – 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper (bell / capsicum), de-seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 yellow or green pepper (bell / capsicum), de-seeded and chopped
  • 2 tbls of finely chopped coriander


  • If using a can of beans, add them to a pan of water, make sure beans are well covered, and bring to a boil
  • If using dry beans, soak for 12 hours and then cook the beans on a rapid boil for 10 minutes, drain and freshen up the water, bring back to the boil and cook until soft. This may take at least 2 hours.
  • Add the garlic, peppers and coriander, stir, cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes

Making the soup –

  • 1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, washed and chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 red pepper (bell / capsicum), de-seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 yellow or green pepper (bell / capsicum), de-seeded and chopped
  • Aabout 4 tblsp of chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 jalapeno chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • In a large frying pan, gently saute the onions, peppers, celery and garlic until they are softened and cooked. Don’t brown them
  • Add the fresh coriander and jalapeno chill, stir and cook for another minute.
  • Pour the mixture into a bowl with the beans and the liquid
  • Using a stick blender, blend until all the ingredients are blended and you have a smooth paste
  • Turn the mixture back into the soup pan and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.

To serve –

  • 2 tblsp of fresh chopped coriander
  • Sour Cream
  • 1 jalapeno chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped


Ladle into bowls and serve with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of chopped coriander and some fresh jalapeno chillies. We ate this as a main meal, with two generous helpings followed with some crusty bread, cheeses and fruit. An easy and quick supper when you use a can of beans !!

I’m hoping to get or make some time this week to catch up with all my blogging reading, I’ve been tardy of late and have missed you all!!  I’ve also got a lot of writing to do, guest blogs to organise, photos to sort and tons of ideas. Isn’t that always the way – heavy on ideas low on time?


  • Ooh – we are huge fans of soups, especially with pulses. Have spent two days here chopping cooking and freeezing peppers, so might have to pop a few in the case to make this! Have you managed to track down jalapeño seeds as I would love to grow them this coming year but can´t find them in Spain. Let me know!

  • You seriously have me in a soup mood my friend, it may be spring but not that hot yet 😀
    I love this and your plants look beautiful!


    • To be honest soup is goo danytime of year – I love those clear Asian ones, or Rasa style Indian ones, cold ones, chunky veggie ones. You get the picture 🙂

  • I’ve not had a lot of success with growing peppers, sweet or hot, but I picked up a nice sized box of red chiles at our farmers’ market this weekend and plan to dry them. That soup sounds tremendously yummy, and as always, love your photos!

    • I think they need to be started early, I start mine at the end of Januray and gradually grow them on. But they do need lots of warmth and sunshine, I think I’m going to try some of the chillies in the greenhouse next year and see what the difference is.

  • The ‘Plan C’ soup sounds really tasty and warming! Would like to say I’ll definitely be trying the recipe, but remembering to put beans on to soak isn’t one of my strong points – I will try though!

  • With temperatures definitely on the cool side, taste definitely turn to soups and we do love those with beans. I am continually amazed by how flavors of the American southwest have become so popular everywhere.

    • I think the way food travles is amazing Lulu, what I eat now in comparison to my parents’ let alone my grandparents is huge, and all in a relatively short space of time. A bit plus of the internet and travle !!

  • My chili plant died. I’ve been thinking of buying a new at the garden centre and keeping it on the kitchen windowsill through the winter. The soup sounds lovely. Happy soup days ahead – yeah!!

  • I love soup…anytime of year!! This sounds like a comforting one.

    I could mail you guys jalapeno seeds. We have them in abudance here. Let me know if you can’t find them.

    • I polished another bowl of it off today for lunch – rainy and cold here !
      And thank you so much for your kind offer, I plan to make an order with an american seed company that ships to the UK, they have some oh so tempting varieties and if my memory serves me right they have the seeds. But thank you again for your kind offer !! Hope you have a super week

  • When life gives you rock hard pinto beans, make bean soup. 🙂 Great adaptation and a hot bowl of soup is always appreciated at this time of year.

    Other than bringing in the thyme/lavender and oregano/rosemary plants from my back yard, I’ve abandoned the thai and sweet basil plants in the garden. I’ve also been prevailed upon to bring home 2 white moth orchid plants (from my mom’s funeral) and baby sit them until my SIL takes one. Though I’m hesitant to abandon the poor plant to someone whose thumb may be blacker than my own. 🙂

    • I was determined to turn them into something tasty after all the effort, not to mention the boiling !!

      The Orchids sound so beautiful, and from what I remember can be a bit tricky, not too cold, or drafty, and keep slightly damp, but not soaking. I think you can buy special orchid feed, but I’ve never tried that so couldn’t say with any certainty that it would be good. Other than that you could always press the flowers !!

  • This soup sounds wonderful! My habit, the last few years, has been to make a pot of beans and grains soup once a week on my bread-making day. I freeze two pints right off the top, to use in the summer when I’m too busy to plan. The rest serves as dinner with bread fresh from the oven on that day, then as lunch the rest of the week. I have worked my way through many recipes in the Moosewood Cookbook and a book of recipes from a French monastery kitchen (This Good Food). Your good recipe is being added to my list. Thank you!

    • Hi Cindy, I love your practical approach, it’s great to have meals to turn to when we are busy or too tired to make things from scratch. I wish we had more room for a bigger freezer, with the allotment a lot of veg goes in there after being blanched, which doesn’t leave room for much else. Well I suppose the frozen croissants do take up a bit of room 🙂
      Your books sounds interesting, I’ll have to take a look on line and check them out. Thanks for popping in !

    • It felt good to get out after being confined indoors at a desk or in totally dull meetings !! I hope I can get back out this week for another session, weather depending though !

  • Heavy on ideas and low on time! Yes! I think I live in that contrast. But we do the best we can. I am so impressed with all your chili and spice garden produce and also your interest in pinto beans and burritos! I remember serving some form of Mexican food to my British grandmother and asking her how she liked it. Her answer, “Not much!” Ha! She liked her food bland, at least by my standards. I love your curries and “hot” dishes! We eat a lot of fresh beans, and I don’t soak them. But I do simmer them for a long time, and it’s true there is a time element. I will be eager to try your recipes. I have a 10-lb bag of pintos in my freezer right now that I’ve been thinking about. It’s been hot and I don’t automatically think soup, but I already know we’d love this soup! Yum!

    • what a great memory about your British grandmother, I’m sure mine would have been the same! Mind you curry is now considered a national dish here 🙂
      I much prefer the fresh beans, straight from the freezer, a rapid boil and away you go, maybe I’ll have to try growing some next year 🙂 What am I like, generating more ideas…. no don’t answer that !!

  • My younger son practices a sort of machismo when it comes to hot peppers. To hear him tell it, jalapenos are much too mild. (Not to me, they burn my mouth.) He keeps talking about something called a scotch bonnet as the holy grail of hot peppers.

    • 🙂 I think Jala[enos are pretty mild too… but scotch bonnest tare another matter, VERY peppery and hot in heat and flavour. I’m happy to have chillies in my food, but I like to taste my food and enjoy it, so I don’t need to blast my head off ! BTW scotch bonnest are popular in caribbean cookery, and a lot of the hot pepper sauces have them in – they can be Hot, Hot, Hot. In fact too hot for me !

  • I really do enjoy a good bean soup on chilly and cold days. This recipe you shared sounds so good, Claire. And look at all those chilis! You may not have had a bumper crop but you sure did have a nice variety. I’d send you jalapeño seeds but they’d only end up in the garden of some customs official, no doubt.

    • Ha, that’s so right John about seeds not making it through the post, it’s all so tricky! I see you mention San Marzano tomatoes, I have seeds of those 😉

  • Love the smell of this … *smile … will go on file. Thanks for a very colorful post with loads of flavors.

  • I keep canned beans in my pantry at all times and they do come in handy. It sounds like you are accomplishing a lot and still eating well.

  • Claire,
    My friend Emily first introduced me to this soup when I stayed with her in Costa Rica. Sometimes we squeezed a bit of lime over the bowl. Your recipe sounds divine! Now you have me wanting black bean soup! I’m off to the kitchen to start prepping the black beans.
    ~ Lynda
    PS: I found some Grano Violeta broad beans here in the states and they are ordered! I can’t wait to get them started and see how they perform. Seems that even if I don’t get any beans, they are a great soil amendment for heavy clay. A possible dinner(s) and improved soil too, all for only $3.00. These could become a good habit! 😉

    • Hi there! I realise my version is made with pinto beans but I think I stayed true enough to the other ingredients. Delicious !!
      and that is fab you managed to get the broad beans, but too funny about them being a soil improver!! The Salmon Flowered Peas are still drying on the windowsill, and I haven’t forgotten you 🙂

  • I have copied your adapted recipe and added it to my soup collection!
    thank you

    • Hi Stacy, you know me too well, I always end up growing different coloured veggies 🙂 and thanks for your wishes, everything, well nearly everything is lined up and ready to go 😉

  • Just above your recipe, you have a picture of a purple chile… I have no idea what it’s called, but it showed up in my garden this year!! That’s one hot mama!! Please, would you share the name of this spicy tidbit? I was trying for malagueta chiles… Oops!!

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