Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting rice, barley and/or soybeans together with salt. The resulting thick paste (which is high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals) can be used in sauces and spreads, or mixed with dashi soup stock to serve as miso soup. Miso is very widely used in Japan, both in traditional and modern cooking, but has been gaining world-wide interest because of its potential health benefits: it contains high levels of zinc, manganese and copper (all of which strengthen the immune system); it is a great source of Vitamin B for vegans and begetarians; it is high in probiotics which are good for the digestive tract; and it is low in fat and calories. It’s also very high in umami – which clearly interests food bloggers more than all the health benefits put together!
A couple of months ago, Helen of Fuss Free Flavours invited me to a miso tasting at her house along with a few other bloggers, with tasting samples provided by Clearspring. Clearspring prides itself on sourcing Japanese products made by traditional methods using time-honoured recipes. All products are GM-free, organic and vegan, and are carefully evaluated for purity of ingredients and ecologically sound manufacturing practices. In addition to its large selection of traditional Japanese foods, Clearspring is currently expanding its line of traditional European foods. These include an extensive range of organic cold pressed oils, wholewheat and spelt pasta, sugar-free organic fruit spreads, organic grains, seeds and almonds. At the time of the tasting, they had also recently released the UK’s first ambient silken tofu – a tetrapak of silken tofu that needs no refrigeration.
Our sample pack included both miso pastes and miso soups, and we started off with the pastes. (Although we tasted them straight from the package, they are probably best enjoyed diluted in some way!). Hatcho unpasteurised miso (made from fermented soyabeans) smelled like Marmite and tasted like a mushroomy beef stock cube with an edge of sourness. Fermented barley miso, although still salty, had a hint of sweetness rather like plum sauce; while unpasteurised barley miso had a chunkier texture and an even saltier taste with far less sweetness. Miso relish was rather like a chunky chutney with hints of ginger (ginger being a recurring theme of conversation for the evening!!) and probably best eaten as part of a dip or sauce. By far my favourite was the sweet white miso (made with rice and soyabeans) – this creamy miso was nutty, toasty and caramelly – loads of umamu and an aftertaste like toasted sesame seeds. I could have eaten the entire jar – seriously.
From their miso soup range, we tried the organic sea vegetable miso soup (smoky like dark soy sauce; not too salty but with loads of umami flavour); the hearty red miso with sea vegetables (more body than the previous soup – tastes like beef stock with an almost lemony aftertaste); and miso bouillon paste (less salty, hint of sweetness – gingery, carrotty).
Of course, man cannot live by miso alone! Other snacks on the night included the soba sushi pictured above, made by Helen using Clearspring products; crudités with a heavenly silken tofu and miso dip; as well as excellent pickled cherry tomatoes and eggs brought by other guests – and of course the divine lemon drizzle cake above!
Other accounts of our lovely evening can be found here:
THANK YOU to Clearspring for providing samples, and to Helen for inviting us into her home!
DISCLOSURE: Products sampled were provided free of charge by Clearspring but I received no remuneration to write this post and all opinions are my own
You can catch me speaking on writing style and voice at Bite ‘n Write in Birmingham in November!