A bowl of miso soup is one of the simplest and most comforting things to eat and to make. It’s often saved me on countless rushed weekday mornings and ‘Fridge Forage’ nights, when I’m desperate for food that’s fast, easy, but healthy at the same time. Making the broth takes probably as much time as it takes to look up the number of a delivery service and read off your order twice to the harried staff on the other side of the phone.
You only need to stir in a tablespoon of miso paste into a bowl of hot water (homemade stock or seaweed dashi if my fridge is in a happier state, or if I’ve got a bit more time), along with a drizzle of sesame oil, generous shakes of white pepper and some spring onions – which I snip with kitchen scissors straight into the bowl. From start to finish, a plain bowl of soup takes a couple of minutes– maybe a bit more if I want to beef it up with other ingredients. I vary my miso soups with noodles or rice; fresh vegetables and herbs; and/or a bit of chicken or seafood according to my fancy.
Miso is made by the fermentation of soybeans – very commonly, with other grains such as rice, wheat and barley. This process results in a rich, savoury paste that not just seasons a dish, but lends it instant umami depth, making it much more exciting than plain old salt. The fermentation also cultivates minerals, vitamins and gut-friendly bacteria, making it a very healthy paste for something that sounds too ‘instant’ and delicious to be good for you. To reap the maximum digestive benefits of miso, you should avoid boiling the ‘live’ miso, so I tend to stir it into soups at the last minute.
That said, it would be a shame not to cook with miso or use it into other ways. I sneak miso into all sorts of dishes – stews, marinades, sauces, dressings, and even flavoured butters. Depending on the length of fermentation and the additional grains used, you have a huge variety of flavours to work with, so it never gets boring.