Halfway up a volcano behind the village there is a very quiet, polite lady in a neat little house who has a herd of well kept goats and makes cheese. Three plump girls work at the cheese in a hut next to the house. It is rather like the Greek Feta cheese and is delicious when it is very fresh and moist. I usually buy a large cheese on my last day there and bring it back to my freezer, cut into portions, so that we can always have the really fresh taste of it. I make a salad with it as a first course, adding chick peas which I urge people to use more because I think they are one of the best of the dried beans. You have to remember to soak them for several hours or overnight in water but otherwise they are very easy. If you can get fresh basil for this dish it makes a wonderful difference, but otherwise use dried oregano.
Rinse the soaked chick peas and cook them in some salted simmering water for about 15–45 minutes (the cooking time depends on the age and quality of the chick peas) – you must test them often as they should be just soft but not left to go mushy. Drain and cool. Slice the onions very finely, slice the tomatoes and cut the Feta cheese up into small chunks. Mix all together with the chick peas in a large shallow dish or bowl. Sprinkle chopped basil or oregano all over – mix up the dressing with a fork, pour it all over the salad and serve. If you can get Greek or Indian bread it is good with this, or else good wholemeal bread.
© 1976 Josceline Dimbleby. All rights reserved.