Two weeks in Spain. The end of summer, spent lounging around, enjoying the tomatoes, the last melons, the greengages, the Spanish mangoes, so good. Picking a ripe, bursting fig from a tree, still warm from the sun, then throwing it away (I really don't see the point of figs, so don't bother trying to convince me). Going to the market and coming back with bulging bags, almost sad from all the millions of things I didn't have time to buy.
Beer and wine and friends and sunshine, and all those lovely things.
Coming back, we're in full autumnal spate, so this is the first thing I've cooked for lunch. It's a hearty one-pot meal, easy, full of good stuff, and all of it made from store cupboard ingredients, if you consider your freezer part of your store cupboard, which I hope you do.
I use a pressure cooker because otherwise it takes forever, but if you want to use a normal pot just multiply the time by three at least, and stop when everything is cooked.
All you do is put a cup of dried chickpeas, half a cup of pearl barley, a peeled onion, a bay leaf and some salt in a pressure cooker. To this I add a piece of smoked pork rib, because that's easy to find here, but anything goes: chorizo, a piece of ham hock, or a bit of parmesan rind. You just want a bit of depth of flavor, nothing more.
Cover with water, add a splash of oil, and 40 minutes under pressure should be enough. When the chickpeas are cooked, check for salt, add a good handful of frozen spinach and a bit of butter and cook until it's all heated through.
If you remember to soak the chickpeas the night before, it takes just 15 minutes, and the barley is just fine. Or you can use lentils, in which case 10 is enough.
Serve with a bottle of hot sauce on the side, and olive oil, and maybe a quartered lemon.
J and I ate all this for lunch, with a small bowl left over for the kids. Who weren't too pleased, but that's their problem, not the soup's.