Michelle’s Jamaican Red Peas Soup

If you’ve watched the video on this site of Michelle explaining how she wrote Fever Hill, you’ll know she talks about her favorite recipe, Jamaican Red Pea Soup. Well, here it is –very warming on a winter’s day – enjoy!


– 1lb (500g) casserole steak or shin of beef, chopped into smallish pieces

– lib (500g) diced smoked gammon

– 3 tins of cooked red kidney beans, drained

– 3-4 large sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and chopped into smallish pieces

– 2-3 large onions, peeled and chopped

– 3 green, red or yellow peppers, chopped

– one hot chilli pepper (NOT chopped; leave it whole)

– 4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

– 2-3 pints (1.25-1.75 litres) beef stock

– Olive oil

– thyme, salt, black pepper to taste


Heat 2-3 tbsp olive oil in a stockpot (or other very large, lidded pot) on top of the stove, then add onions, peppers  (but  not the chili pepper), and garlic and cook over a low heat with lid on, till softened. Add the beef, stir till slightly browned, then add the stock, thyme, salt, black pepper and chili pepper and cook over a low heat with lid on or slightly tilted for about an hour. Then add gammon and cook another half-hour. Finally, add beans and sweet potatoes (and your favorite dumplings, if  you like these)  – and cook for a further half hour.

CARE : Go easy on the salt to begin with, because you’ll be adding the salty gammon later. And when stirring, be careful not to break the chilli pepper, and remove it when the soup is finished – otherwise, someone will get a nasty surprise!

This is a very tolerant soup. You can eat it on its own, or with rice, or on toast if you can’t be bothered to cook rice. You can make it runny by adding more stock and/or water, or as thick a stew by adding orange lentils in the last half hour of cooking. It’s great with an avocado and tomato salad.