A vegetable drawer clean out prompted this soup; a stray spring onion, a half leek, spinach just shy of becoming limp. It was late when I began cooking, nearly 9 o’clock, and the slow steaming of leek and onions sounded so appealing. My soups very rarely follow a recipe. I go by ingredients on hand and a desire for texture and consistency; thick and creamy, or more of a thin broth.

This soup is of the broth variety with sweet cubes of kumara* and thick strips of spinach. The leek, spring onion and brown onion were cooked slowly to retain their soft green colour and gentle flavour. Red and golden kumara were simmered with the onions and chicken stock until just cooked and slightly toothsome. I tossed in half a bay leaf and a few sprigs of thyme, adding a depth of flavour to the chicken stock. A final grating of ginger cut through the richness of the stock. This very subtle heat sits snugly at the back of your mouth, a reminder that there is goodness here.

For a an extra flourish I made a yoghurt sauce with a squeeze of lemon juice, ground cumin and parsley. This could add a finishing touch to so many dishes – curries and vegetable stews, baked potatoes, a dipping sauce for vegetable cruditĂ©s, even other soups of the classical sort. A swirl of this fresh yoghurt through pumpkin or roasted mushroom soup would be refreshing. Feel free to change the herb, or the spice for something more mellow, or more upbeat.

Not bad for a fridge raid supper.

Sweet Onion, Kumara and Spinach Soup
Soups are such a lovely thing to make; once you have the basic formula you can change the ingredients and quantities as you please. I like a soup that seems to stradle the lines between soup and stew but you could puree it once cooked for something most definitely in the soup camp. Like I said, I don’t really follow a recipe so the words below are more of a general guide.

Oh and, * kumara is sweet potato for all non-kiwi readers.

a knob of butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium brown onion
1-2 spring onions
3 cloves garlic
1/2 to a whole leek
3-5 kumara, red, golden or brown
chicken or vegetable stock, 500-750ml, heated
thyme sprigs, bay leaf
a thumb sized piece of ginger
a large handful or two of spinach

In a large pot heat the butter and oil over low-medium heat. Slice the leek and the onions into half rounds then into thin strips. Add to butter and oil and stir to coat. Slice the spring onion into thin rounds and add to pot. Finely dice the garlic and add to onions. Cook slowly until soft.

Dice kumara into 1-2cm cubes and add to the onions. Cover the pot and cook the kumara for a few minutes. Add the stock until barely covering the vegetables. Throw in the herbs and grate half the ginger into the soup. Place the rest of the ginger whole into the pot. Bring to the boil and simmer until the kumara is just cooked. (This will depend how finely diced the kumara is so keep checking, maybe 10-15 minutes.) Roughly chop the spinach and stir through the soup until just wilted. Remove from heat.

For the yoghurt sauce mix 4 tablespoons yoghurt, a few leaves of finely chopped parsley, a squeeze of lemon juice, a couple of pinches salt and a half teaspoon of cumin. Stir well.

Dollop a generous spoonful on top of the soup and serve with crusty bread.

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