Bean salad

Colonel Sanders' Kentucky Fried Chicken opened its first store in the Hutt Valley (a quiet community situated about 15 miles outside Wellington, New Zealand) in the early 1970s. Their choice of location in what I remember as a sparsely populated area of the Hutt seemed a little strange. But it had excellent access by road, a fair-sized car park, and they always seemed to do a roaring trade.

The menu might surprise modern eyes. It looks practically provincial. Boxes or buckets of fried chicken, with mashed potato and gravy, weird, oddly bright yellow batch rolls, and coleslaw on the side. And, of course, bean salad (despite how they describe their potato salad, it wasn't nice at all). Not a chip in sight!

It was the first time I'd ever eaten bean salad, and it left a lasting impression. I still follow their basic recipe: two types of dried beans plus green beans, onions, malt vinegar, a fair amount of brown sugar, quite a lot of black pepper, salt, and a little oil...though I may have swapped a few things out over the years.

I still use two types of dried beans, and one of them is always red kidney beans. The other varies between black-eyed peas and pinto beans, depending on how I feel at the time. I replaced the green beans with green bell pepper years ago, and I've never looked back. I swapped out the malt vinegar for cider vinegar, but more recently I've gone back to using malt. The brown sugar, the pepper, the salt, and the oil have all remained constant over the years. I still make this often and I love it to bits.

Makes a large tub; serves 4 as part of a Bennett & Luck type salad, or up to 6 as a side dish.


70g dried red kidney beans, soaked overnight

70g dried pinto beans, soaked separately overnight

2/3 of half an onion, finely sliced

2 heaped teaspoons soft brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

6 tablespoons malt vinegar

1 medium green bell pepper, diced

a slug of neutral oil

salt to taste



Soak and cook the two types of beans separately, adding half a teaspoon of salt to each pan at the 20 minute mark. This preserves their colour and prevents one sort becoming mushy while the other has yet to cook.

While they cook, top, tail, and peel an onion, then cut it lengthwise down the middle. Slice about two thirds of one of the halves thinly and add it to a bowl with the sugar and the pepper.


Measure in the vinegar, stir it well, and leave it to sit for the flavours to infuse.


When the first lot of beans is tender (these kidney beans took 35 minutes in total), drain them well and add them hot to the bowl. This helps to cook the onion very slightly.


When the last lot of beans is cooked (these pinto beans took an hour), drain them and add them to the bowl as well. Let the beans cool completely before adding the diced pepper.


Pour a little oil over the salad (about a scant tablespoon) and toss the salad gently. Add salt to taste and adjust the black pepper and brown sugar if necessary before tossing it again.

Any questions? You can use the comments form at the bottom of the page.

Did you know?

You'll find recipes at the back of all the books in the Send for Octavius Guy series:

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