Three Bean Salad and a picnic by the lake

Serves: 6-8+
Cost: ~€2.90
Preparation time: ~15 minutes
Calories: ~575, if divided between 8, depending on the type of beans used

Hi folks. A fairly quick post today and I almost feel guilty for posting this because it’s barely a recipe. It changes every time I make it but when I started my blog I wanted to have an archive of “the things I cook” – something I can reference in years to come and to be fair, it wouldn’t be a true “archive” if I missed out something that I eat quite regularly, just because it’s so simple. Yep – you guessed it, you’ve all seen the title. It’s a “three bean salad”, but you can equally make it a four bean salad, a five bean salad, a ten bean salad… it’s really up to you. I wouldn’t recommend dropping below three varieties. I think it’s a good number to give enough variation in colour and texture.

It’s very fast to throw together, assuming you’re using canned beans. If not it will require some forward planning, and what’s the benefit of beans? Beloved food of canny students everywhere… yep, these babies are cheap, cheap, cheap! This dish is perfect for those on a budget and best of all, it doesn’t even look like budget food. For less than about €3 you can get a huge bowl of beans big enough to serve probably about six people, perhaps up to eight if you’re eating the dish as part of something else. In this case I served it with bread and a roasted aubergine and feta salad I’d also thrown together for a picnic which we took out to a nearby lake.

Nice place to live

Can you see the house on the right-hand side of the photo? There’s two houses at the end of the lake here, and then a road along the other side with more houses. I can imagine it must be quite delightful to live down there. Very calm and peaceful. One of the houses has a small library upstairs, facing the lake, with large floor to ceiling windows. On a summer’s evening it must be wonderful to sit there, sipping something cold and looking out over the lake with a book.

The lake is home to no small amount of wildlife too. Fish, ducks, coots, herons, frogs and toads and a rather cute family of coypus:

The friendly coypus

We first discovered the family back last winter. We’d take our lunch by the lake each day as it is just a short drive away from our office. The lake was frozen back then and we’d see the female coypu and her young huddling by the edge of the lake, sitting on the ice looking a bit sorry for themselves. Periodically, the male would appear, before ambling off again, presumably in search of food. We liked to feed the ducks with some bread and it seemed that the coypus were rather grateful to grab some bread as well. They were in the same place each day during our lunch break – I like to think they were waiting to say hello to us, although that probably just happened to be the place where they usually sat.

The friendly coypus

They have enormously thick, long tails which swish around in the water behind them as they swim, and swim they do! Now that it’s summer and the lake has thawed, whenever someone is around feeding the ducks you’ll see the things powering through the water to the bank, their little noses twitching in anticipation as they glide along. It seems though that they’re not always interested in human-provided snacks these days. Since they can once again forage for their more natural food they seem to enjoy sleeping the day away on a platform which floats in the middle of the lake. I’m not sure how it’s secured but it seems to be an old pallet or something. You’ll often see a heron sitting there as well, before he takes off to do a “fly-by” and swoop down to skewer some unsuspecting fish.

A heron coming in to land

In the picture above you can see at least two, possibly three of the young coypus, as well as the male, on the left and the female on the right, oh, and the heron of course. Don’t mention herons to my mother – some years ago she had terrible problems with one of the things swooping over and deciding my parents’ garden pond looked like a good takeaway restaurant. They have some special protection devices which sit on top of the water now – big round discs made of a type or mesh or net I think, so air and light can get through, but sharp little beaks can’t, so no more goldfish for him (or her!).

Mating season for the ducks seems to be over now. The females are hidden away in the reeds on the banks, no doubt sitting on eggs or nursing their young. The males seem to be roaming the banks, snoozing in the sun or generally looking a bit lost. I could walk almost right up to at least two of them, which is how I was able to get such a close-up photo. If you look carefully at the last one you’ll even see my reflection (and the reflection of my family) in its eye – how’s that for cool?

Quack quack

Mr. Duck

I hope you enjoyed the photos from another part of my “neighbourhood”. At the end of the lake there’s a really nice French restaurant which I hope to do a little review of one day. The dining area has large glass windows over-looking the lake which make for a lovely view as you enjoy the delicious food. Incidentally, they do excellent duck there, although hopefully it’s not one of our friends pictured above! 😀

On to the recipe – I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it can inspire you in some way. Have a great Friday everyone and enjoy your weekend. I’ll be back on Monday with my next post, and another video!

Three Bean Salad


Bean Salad ingredients

  • ~1.5kg Assorted, cooked and drained Beans – I used white haricot beans, red kidney beans and chickpeas (all canned).
  • 2 Red Onions
  • ~3 cloves of Garlic
  • Juice from 1 Lemon
  • Juice from 1 Lime
  • ~4 tbsps Olive Oil
  • 2-3 tsps Ground Cumin
  • 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


  1. Place the beans into a large mixing bowl. Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic and add to the bowl. Add in the lemon and lime juice, the olive oil, the ground cumin and the cayenne pepper. Give the bowl a few good twists of salt and pepper and mix well.
    Mixing everything together
  2. Serve immediately, or allow to refrigerate for a couple of hours, or even overnight, to allow the flavours to infuse throughout the salad. Enjoy on its own for a very beany meal or as part of a buffet style meal or accompaniment!
    Three Bean Salad


  1. The Wife says

    “One of the houses has a small library upstairs, facing the lake, with large floor to ceiling windows.”

    No, we’ve never been invited inside. We just randomly stand outside people’s homes and stare in through their windows… Luckily the creepy factor is reduced by the fact that we also feed ducks and aww over the baby coypus! 😉

  2. says

    Charles, you were right to post this salad recipe. What seems simple and basic to you, is not that simple to us. I have never had a three bean salad for example, so it looks very unusual to me. Otherwise, of course I know what you mean. I also don’t post the very basic, boring recipes until some of my friends says I should and then I realise they were not so boring and proved useful to some visitors. In short, keep on posting everything you like!
    The photos are breathtaking! How have you managed to be so close to the ducks??? I have never seen this funny animal “live”, so I really envy you.

    • says

      Thanks so much Sissi – you’re so right. Even if it’s just something like “hey guys, try this precise ratio of vinegar and oil and this exact herb the next time you make a vinaigrette”… something so simple but for some people it might completely change the way they do something. At the very least I like to feel like I can help someone, somewhere, and of course keep a record of “things I eat” so I can look at it one day in many years. Now I spent so long on my blog, I don’t think I could ever just let it go!

      The ducks were really very bold. In other seasons they will fly away or jump in the lake before you can even get within one metre, but these guys this time… they were completely uninterested and didn’t seem threatened at all. I could go close enough to grab them before they even started moving their heads from their sleeping position… Very strange. I guess that’s what male ducks are like in summer months maybe?

  3. says

    simple but delicious and hearty salad! I think the simplest things are often the best, so please don’t think you have to only post complex michelin-looking food 😉 I like to cook dried beans from scratch because I find when I soak them overnight and then cook them, they give me less bloating heh. But on the downside the prep time then takes forever and i can’t just decide to have a bean salad there and then which is annoying.

    The coypus is adorable! I’ve never seen this animal before!

    • says

      Hi Shuhan, my wife bought a pressure cooker this morning… I can’t wait for it to be delivered… apparently you can cook beans really fast. Of course, you still need to soak them first, but I can’t wait to start cooking with that!

      I’d like to cook more beans from scratch… cheaper and better. Like many canned things, they’re always over-boiled and have a waaaaay worse consistency than freshly made ones!

      I actually never saw coypus in England myself. I wonder if they exist there?

  4. says

    What a delightful post Charles – love all the photos especially of the wildlife :) I’m so envious that you get to picnic by that lake. The bean salad looks good too – thanks for sharing :) Have a great weekend X

    • says

      Thanks so much BA – we have another lake… an even bigger one the same distance away in the other direction too. I’ll get some photos of that one too one day :) It’s nice because you can see the sun setting over the water there and it’s really beautiful!

  5. says

    What a great salad. I’m always wanting a good bean salad recipe. And I think tinned beans are absolutely fine. They’re cheap, they’re full of nutrition and you don’t lose any flavour by having them canned. Beautiful images too Charles xx

    • says

      Thanks Charlie – completely agree. I find tinned beans lose the consistency a bit. Like many commercially canned things they’re always over-cooked a LOT, but it’s definitely a great meal all the same!

  6. says

    I must admit I did wonder how you knew they had a library overlooking the water. :) I had to enlarge the duck photo so I could see the family reflection. It’s very clever.

    My husband loves a bean salad and this reminds me that maybe I should make one tomorrow. :)

    • says

      Thanks Maureen – yeah, we don’t go licking at their windows, but it’s hard to miss… it’s a great big glass window at the top of their house, pointing towards the lake, with shelves full of books behind it… Lovely!

  7. says

    What gorgeous photos, Charles. We have High Park within walking distance to our house and it is chuck full of cute little wild life. In fact, the folks around are cautious as we also have coyotes who will gladly munch on wondering house cats!
    Love bean salad. I understand that the Asians put something into anything beanie to make it less difficult to digest. I read it somewhere and promptly forgot what and where, so now I am on the hunt.

    • says

      Hi Eva, I always think different countries’ flora and fauna is so interesting… especially how the people adapt to the different conditions. In Sweden, the main things they have are wolves, bears and elk. I’m not sure if they have those wild in France at all… especially not around where I live. I can’t imagine what living around coyotes must be like… especially if they “munched” on my Sammy-cat!

      Just for you I did some internet-searching, and found this:

      “Digestive Spices – Indian cooking uses ginger, turmeric, and sometimes fennel and asafetida to cook with beans to make them more digestible. I especially recommend ginger and turmeric. If you use a small amount with the beans while you cook them, they aid with digestion but do not dominate the flavor.

      Japanese and far East Asian cooking uses a piece of kombu or kelp, which is a kind of seaweed, cooked in with beans.”

      Does that sound familiar? I never heard of this, though from the sources I read it seemed that properly cooked, well soaked, well rinsed beans often don’t cause that many digestive problems. I think I only cooked beans from dry twice in my life though so I wouldn’t know 😀

  8. says

    I could do with that house by the lake with the library — I’ve always wanted to live by a lake — it’s nice that someone gets to. The only lake in our town is a man-made lake in a big park where the rangers would not allow me to take up residence. Why should you not post a simple recipe? We can’t all eat big productions everyday. My blogging fear is that I will run out of things to write about because I actually eat the same foods all of the time, bringing them out and retiring them as their seasons come and go.

    • says

      Hi Sharyn – I think I’d prefer a house by a river. I’ve seen a few houses in England with a river running through the end of their garden and I always feel so jealous. I’d sit there all weekend on the bank with my feet in the water :(

      I think living next to a lake would probably cause huge problems with mosquitoes, and since they seem especially attracted to me for some reason I’d end up looking quite bad after just two nights there in the summer!

    • says

      I meant to say – I worry about losing inspiration, but there’s so many things you can eat. Even just by changing a few ingredients, one salad can be transformed to something else. Writing this blog has forced me to eat different foods too… I felt like before this, I was in a rut of maybe 30 dishes which I would just cycle through every so often.

      • says

        The thing is, I don’t view my eating habits as a rut — I don’t see anything wrong with eating the same delicious things every year in their seasons (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!). Now, for instance, I’m eating polenta with peaches for breakfast again. I just wonder what I’ll write about after I’ve given out all of my recipes. Trips to France are good for writing fodder though, n’est-ce pas?

        • says

          Oh for sure – if you’re speaking about eating habits in terms of a year, then no… I wouldn’t call that a “rut” at all. Nothing wrong with eating fresh, delicious things from the garden or market at their prime. My problem was though that it was more a case of having roast dinner with either pork, chicken or beef on Sundays, then during the week I’d make usually the same sort of thing on Mondays, from the roast leftovers, maybe fried chicken, or a beef salad, and then later in the week I’d think “oh, I haven’t had spaghetti bolognese in a couple of weeks… time to churn some out”, so it would go round and round like that.

          I think trips to foreign climes in general are always excellent inspiration. Even watching foreign cooking shows: I watch quite a few Swedish cooking shows with my wife and always feel filled with inspiration afterwards!

  9. says

    This is one of my fav salads.. and I agree, many of my recipes are being recorded for my kids.. whether they’re simple or not. In fact for them, simpler is likely better, lol! I don’t know what a Coypus is?? They look like our sea otters.. or our beavers??

    • says

      Hi Barb, they do look a bit like otters. Apparently they were introduced to Europe and North America by fur-traders and I guess they escaped. They’re now considered a “pest” in many places because they eat their way through vegetation on the banks of the water-ways.

  10. says

    I want to picnic by a lake, how relaxing!! I love the ducks :). As for the salad, I’m glad you shared it with us. Sometimes the simplest things that we eat repeatedly are also the most comforting and delicious!

    • says

      Thanks Laura – couldn’t agree more… simple is often so nice. I have another lake in the other direction too… even bigger, and no houses there. I’ll take some photos there next time too :)

    • says

      Thanks Marta – normally I’d add a bit of red bell pepper or something to the salad… just to give it a bit of zing, but alas I had none :)

  11. says

    I’ve heard of nutria before and now I have a visual picture. They ARE cute and the duck males are gorgeous if a bit lonely as their purpose in life seems to be over for the season. :)

    What a charming place to eat your lunch and thank you for sharing your bean salad recipe as well as the pictures. A humble meal but tasty as always, and economical too. Which, after all, is the raison d’etre of your blog. :)

    • says

      I didn’t know they were called nutria as well – must have skimmed over that part in the wiki article. Apparently that’s the name they generally go by in North America – it doesn’t seem like an animal’s name to me I have to say… sounds a bit like a food additive or something (I guess because of the sweetener “nutrasweet” and also there’s a brand here called “Nutrivia”).

    • says

      Thanks so much KB – there’s a bean called “flageolet” in French which I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else before. Have you ever tried those? They’re small and green and apparently very common in France, but not quite so much elsewhere. They’re very nice :)

  12. says

    I am so happy to hear you say that you stand outside and peep in. When we go walking I tend to look inside any open windows of the homes along the way. I am just looking at the decor really, LOL. Tasty bean salad and I really enjoy the red onion flavor. Have a wonderful weekend. Oh yeah and I really loved peeping at your photos, they are lovely.

    • says

      Hi Suzi – I’m so happy to find another “window-gawker”, haha 😀 I love it… catching a brief glimpse of other peoples’ lives. I especially like it at night, seeing what they’re doing, maybe having a party, or just a quiet meal. Trouble is, in France and other countries further south, blinds and shutters are very popular (not at all common in England strangely). People will religiously close their shutters at nightfall and it makes the streets seem so dark and depressing. I took a walk on Christmas Eve two years ago and the street was completely silent and still… and it was only 9pm :(

  13. says

    You’ll never know! What’s simple to you could be interesting to another. I’d posted some boring “quickie” stuff of my own and have received some very appreciative comments and some got to Top9 at foodbuzz even! Go figure! So yeah, this 3 bean salad …. it’s actually one of my very favorite salads to have. Easy to prepare but very, very satisfying. Sometimes I add some corn kernels or chickpeas (more beans) …
    I love that pic of the otter. Reminds me of the one near the beach in my hometown. He’ll go rub his fuzzy muzzle on the toes of unsuspecting sun bathers and you can hear them screech from a mile away! And you’ll see him scurrying away, no doubt to tell his furry clan about those silly, screechy pink/yellow fur-less creatures and his scare quota for the day! :)

    • says

      Hi Ping – corn kernels sounds like a great addition… I’ll try that, although I think I will get those by cutting them from a corn cob directly, instead of using canned ones. I always find corned can so… I don’t know… too sweet and mushy.

      Loved reading about your local otter – I can just picture it now, haha 😀

    • says

      Thanks so much Marina – apparently the only reason the little guys are in Europe in the first place was because they were introduced by fur ranchers… poor things!

    • says

      Hi Nami, it’s too bad they don’t like beans – they’re such a versatile food. How do they feel about things like hummus? Not a fan of those either?

      Glad you enjoyed the photos :)

  14. says

    It wasn’t that long ago that I would have thought “Ewww. Three bean salad.” Fortunately this cooking around the world thing has quite turned me onto beans and I enjoy them now. I have no doubt I would like this salad – especially with the cumin. :) Love the coypus pics too. Very cute. Looks like you guys had a great picnic!

    • says

      Thanks Kristy – I’m glad you’re seeing the light and enjoying beans more these days… they’re so awesome. I even love broad beans these days, and I used to detest those. By the way, broad beans makes a fantastic hummus, if you ever want to give it a try!

  15. says

    Dear Charles,

    I love these white haricot and chickpeas and the fact this salad can be eaten cold too. You love in a beautiful surrounding and reviewing your own local French restaurant would be an exciting prospect too.

    • says

      Hi Chopinand – I will definitely try and visit the restaurant again soon. When I’ve been in the past I’ve found the food very good and the service excellent (believe me, it’s rare in this country!)

  16. says

    What great pictures! In high school we would go to the bayou at night just to watch all of the coypu (we called them nutria) come up out of the bayou. It was a little scary because there were so many of them and it felt like the invasive of giant rats. :) But it was fun! Oh what we do as kids! Sounds like you had a lovely picnic and the bean salad looks delicious and I can’t believe how easy you made it! Fantastic!

    • says

      Hi MJ – I can’t imagine what it must be like, seeing so many of these little critters. We have just a small family of them here, but if there was a huge “swarm” of them… gosh, it must look so strange!

      You taught me a new word… I’d never heard of a “bayou” before… just looked it up now!

      • says

        I’m so glad that we taught each other new words! I had to look up coypu. :) After I read your reply I looked up bayou and hadn’t realized that, even in the U.S., it’s still a word that is used mainly in the south, particularly Louisiana. Since I was raised in Louisiana I thought it a pretty common word. So I’ve now learned two new things! How cool is that?

  17. says

    I love three bean salad and am ashamed to even remember (let alone admit) that I used to buy this from M&S in my youth! What a lovely day out you had too….gorgeous photos.

    • says

      Hi Chica – I think the first time I had a bean salad was from Waitrose, many years ago. It’s strange how we will pay so much money for something which is so simple to prepare at home. Talk about nice profit margins!

  18. says

    Your nature photos are gorgeous Charles. Truly, they add such dimension to your blog. You’re a wonderful photographer. It may not surprise you to learn that I love legume salad (being that I’m full of beans and all – hardy har, har :)), and I like the addition of cumin in this yummy variation. I don’t think you should ever be embarrassed by simplicity; to me, it is next to genius ;-).

    • says

      Ojoj, thank you Kelly – you’re going to make me blush. I’m so glad you enjoy the photos. When I hear people say such things it always makes me so happy and makes me want to take more. I don’t think I’m so wonderful – I still have a lot of improvement in my opinion but at least I have loads of motivation to improve!

      Thanks for your kind compliment :)

  19. says

    I love your the bean salad. It is a very popular dish in the southern part of our country. As a matter of fact, you can buy a jar of three bean salad at most markets in our country. Enjoyed going on your picnic with you.

    • says

      Hi Karen – it’s true, it’s a common dish. How is it usually made in your markets, do you know? People add many different herbs and spices so it’s always nice to know how different it can be!

    • says

      Thanks Melissa – definitely… it’s warmed up now a lot. It was quite cool before so it’s nice to have some summer weather :)

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