The night before: put the chickpeas to soak overnight in plenty of cold water.
Bring to the boil in the same water, strain through a colander and return to the pan. Cover with fresh water.
Top and tail the Spanish onions, but leave whole and with the skin on. Add to the pan, together with the bay leaves, 2 peeled whole garlic cloves, the whole chillies and some pepper.
Bring the contents of the pan to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 1½ hours, until the chickpeas are just tender. Drain through a colander, reserving the cooking liquid. Discard the Spanish onions and other aromatics.
Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Discard the outer leaves of the greens and cut out the stalks of the remaining leaves. Blanch the leaves for 3 minutes, refresh briefly in cold water and reserve.
Return the chickpeas to the pan. Add the tomato sauce, the vinegar and 850 ml/1½ pt of the reserved cooking liquid and season with salt. Stir and bring to a bare simmer. Add the saffron.
Peel and dice the red onions and the remaining garlic cloves and fry these in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil until translucent. Stir into the chickpeas and simmer for 5 more minutes.
Cut the greens into large strips and add to the pot. Stir all together and simmer for 2 minutes.
Serve at once in 4 warmed deep soup bowls with parsley scattered over and the remaining olive oil dribbled on each portion.
Have more oil on the table for people to help themselves.
© 1995 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.