Miso

so much more than just a base for a soup

This gorgeous illustrations is by my friend Katya, you can find her on IG Honestly Green

Hi! 

Welcome to the first issue of Appetite, a place where abandoned and forgotten ingredients come to life. I’ve had so many submissions, it’ll keep me going until Christmas… Christmas 2025 that is. 

Okay, so the first thing I need to mention, this is not a quickie. Each newsletter will be quite long and contain the history of the ingredient, quick suggestions for use, a recipe from me, where to buy/how to make (if applicable) and some suggestions for further reading/listening/following. Each section is clearly labelled so you can skip or skim through.

We’ve all been there: you see a recipe, you get excited, you hunt down the special ingredient (inevitably spend a silly amount of money on the said ingredient). You make the dish, you enjoy the dish (but not to an extent where it becomes a regular on your menu), or maybe the trauma of going through 25 steps in the recipe doesn’t go away (looking at you, Ottolenghi*). So you’re never picking up the magic ingredient again. 

Don’t fret, I am here to help. Even though I cook a fair bit, and I like to keep a well-stocked pantry, I also have so many forgotten and often never opened ingredients.

So let’s dive straight into the history and the use of miso paste. Thanks to Deepa’s submission, I was left with a task to turn the internet upside down and learn as much as possible. I hope that after reading this issue you’re either going to finish your abandoned miso or will be so excited, you’ll go out and buy a fresh jar of it.

ABOUT MISO

(Many of you voted for this, if you’re not into geeking out about food, just scroll down and go straight to recipe suggestions)

What is miso? Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and kōji and sometimes rice, barley, seaweed, or other ingredients (source: the internet). 

Miso will bring next-level saltiness and umami-rich flour to your dishes. If you’re completely new to miso start with varieties that are lighter in colour and build your way to the darker pastes. Your flavour buds will adjust to the funkiness. It’s perfect for achieving rich deep flavour without using any meat, so if you’re looking to eat less meat in your cooking but don’t want to miss the rich broths and stocks then this is the one for you. There are over 1,000 varieties of miso varying in colour and depth of flavour. Most common varieties are white and red and the longer miso is fermented the darker in colour it gets. Due to the fermentation process miso is full of antioxidants and gut-friendly bacteria. It’s high in protein and vitamins, so it’s very good for you. 

Miso is an ancient staple of the Japanese diet, traditionally even to this day, Japanese breakfast consists of light miso soup. Miso has been used in Japan since 1000BC. The origins of it aren’t completely clear. Miso started its’ life as fish or grain variation, which is a technique borrowed from China. The soybean variation of miso was introduced in the sixth century.

Typically, before it was used in the paste form as we know it now, miso was an accompaniment to a dish made up of rice, dried fish and fresh vegetables. The miso didn't’ become the miso that we know today ( a paste) until somewhere between the fourteenth and the sixteenth century. This creation has become a gift to the culinary world and sparked new ways of eating. Thanks to the (relative) simplicity and high nutritional profile, it became a staple ingredient during the financial hardships.

Perks of an abandoned jar: due to it being a fermented product you can keep it in the fridge for about a year after opening. Some people say you can keep it indefinitely, but the texture and colour may change. It’s also freezable (Brexit friendly ingredient).

QUICK SUGGESTIONS FOR USE:

  • The most popular way to use is to make a miso broth, and that’s how I got introduced to this ingredient. 

  • Something I love to do is make a paste that has miso as a base ingredient, topped off with gochujang or honey (or both), with some smashed garlic and/or ginger and a drop of soy sauce, then emulsify with some hot water. This makes a beautiful coating for your stir-fries, quick weeknight noodles, or rice. Adding a bit of hot water makes it easier to mix the ingredients. 

  • Add a dash of miso to your mayo, use that mayo in sandwiches and toasties. Or stir some miso through your favourite butter to upgrade it, and then rub it on your corn on a cob, or any other grilled vegetables.

  • Love pesto? Add some miso to your pesto to give it more depth, hold back on salt.

  • Miso pairs beautifully with aubergines and tofu, so go nuts. Marinade, glaze, make your aubergines (and other veg), and tofu pop. 

  • Miso works great as a rub for poultry and fish, however, it’s best to rub the marinade off right before cooking as it’ll burn easily. If you’re adding other ingredients and paste-like substances you should get away without a burn.

  • One of my favourite recipes to use up miso is this Spicy Miso Carbonara from Chrissy Teigen (the goddess!). I made this with spaghetti as well as with udon noodles, don’t forget to add your pasta water or you’ll scramble your eggs (yep, been there, done that, ruined it). If you don’t have any sambal oelek, use any other hot sauce (my go-to is Sriracha). To make this veggie, substitue bacon for mushrooms or finely chopped aubergine.

Even more recipes to use up your miso: BBC Good Food Recipes Yotam Ottolenghi’s Miso Recipes Nigel Slater’s Miso Recipes

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Tahini and Miso Blondie 

Many of you probably love salted caramel or sprinkling salt on your chocolate cookies; this is the equivalent of that but with miso. The mix of miso and tahini adds a lovely umami saltiness that works so well with the richness from white chocolate. It also uses just one bowl for mixing the ingredients. I am a huge fan of very little washing up! Two types of sugar can be subbed for one type and (in theory!) you can swap plain flour for a gluten-free option (let me know how it goes!) 

Ingredients: 

  • 225 butter, cut into small pieces

  • 200g white chocolate broke into chunks or cut into medium-sized pieces

  • 3 eggs

  • 200g light brown sugar

  • 100g caster sugar 

  • 175 plain flour

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or paste) 

  • 1.5 tbsp miso paste (I used red as that’s all I had but white will work just as well) 

  • 3 tbsp tahini (mix before scooping out of the jar) 

  • 30g demerara sugar (optional) 

Method: 

  1. Preheat your oven to 180c. Line a large baking tray (25cm x 15cm) with some baking parchment. 

  2. Place a large saucepan with some water on medium heat, get it to simmer. Add the butter and the chocolate to a large heatproof mixing bowl. 

  3. Melt the butter and the chocolate over the simmering pan, take off the heat carefully and let it cool a little bit (you don’t want to cook the eggs when they get added). 

  4. From this step onwards, you’ll be adding the ingredients one by one to your bowl of butter and chocolate. Make sure you mix thoroughly before adding the next ingredient. 

  5. Add the eggs, mix well. Now add the sugar, mix well. Follow by the flour and the baking powder. 

  6. Now, add the vanilla, followed by miso and finally the tahini. 

  7. Pour the batter into prepared tin/dish. Sprinkle the Demerara sugar (it adds a nice crunch) on top and bake for 30-35 minutes (this will achieve a gooey brownie-like consistency). If you prefer a dryer cake-like texture bake for another 5-10 minutes. 

  8. Remove from the oven, let it cool and slice into pieces. 

    I hope you know your oven well enough to get the right consistency, my oven is a temperamental witch so my brownies are always EXTRA gooey. I am into it, some people aren’t.

WHERE TO BUY

Luckily, miso has become widely available over the years and can be found in most major supermarkets. But if you have a Japanese store/ Asian supermarket near you, venture out and explore. You’re likely to pick up a new variety and the quality of the product will be top-notch (quite often at a fraction of a supermarket price). You can also order online at Japan Centre. If your miso comes in a bag, transfer into a sealable jar after opening and store in the fridge. 

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN

If you really want an adventure, you can make your own. Here’s a video:

But please beware, it takes at least a year for it to ferment! I would definitely give this a go if I had more space in my kitchen for all the fermented goods. 

Who to follow: Yoko from Osaka Kitchen on IG 

Cookbook to buy: Junk Food Japan

A podcast to listen to: Spilled Milk Episode 423

That’s it for the first issue. I hope you enjoyed it. I want to make this newsletter the best resource possible so please do send in your comments/questions/suggestions and queries. Thank you for subscribing and for reading, it really means the world to me. 

Anya xx 

Coming up next week: sumac, a gorgeous bright spice from the Mediterranean and Middle East

*I actually love Ottolenghi! 

P.S I know I promised you Frank but it’s been really hot, so she refuses to help out in the kitchen. Maybe next time, for now you can get your Frank fix on my Instagram.