A young classics master once explained to me in great detail how ancient Rome would have collapsed without beans. Certainly the Romans introduced chick peas to Britain and, doubtless, they strewed them through France on the way. During the last ten years the chick pea, one of the staples of the Middle East and North Africa, has made a comeback in France, accompanying the immigrants from those cultures. As a result, a French market, especially in the south, usually has a sizeable stall displaying a good variety of pulses – beans, peas and seeds, whole and ground, along with the exciting spices that are usually necessary to give some taste to these otherwise bland vegetable proteins. Chick peas, though, have a more pronounced flavour; flat and earthy, they are probably at their best pureed in hummus or whole in salads. But it was in Israel that I first came upon chick peas, soaked, cooked and toasted, sold as a snack like roasted peanuts. I’ve now worked out how to prepare them at home for serving with a dozen or so small bowls of other nibbling foods to munch with wine as part of a light lunch eaten in the midday shade. Only some cheese and fruit is needed to complete the meal.