Over the last couple of years we've begun to make and use miso at WK. If you'd like a copy of our Miso primer, which includes a basic recipe/method, drop in to the pizzeria and ask us for a copy. Below is an explanation for why we see it as a great process and ingredient to incorporate into our kitchens- even though it's traditionally associated with Japanese rather than European food.
Why is Miso relevant to WK?
We want to play our part in a healthy food system, where our menus and operations contribute to thriving ecology and thriving communities all the way down the supply chain, as well as thriving communities and ecology as we serve the food.
While miso originates in Japanese cuisine and has a flavour spectrum that is most commonly associated with Asian food, we think that it can be applied to the produce and processes we have at our disposal in the UK.
Miso is a form of preservation and can therefore be employed in response to seasonal gluts or particular abundance. Where we might not think to use an Asian-inspired ingredient for Italian-inspired food, it is helpful to think of miso as a way of responding to a particular type of food. This is especially true of pulses: miso might be the process best suited to preserving such ingredients and, if using locally-sourced produce, the resulting miso might actually be a completely authentic extension of this local cuisine.
As well as reducing waste through preservation, the enzymatic processes which happen in the production of miso mean that it can be a great way to minimise wider food waste. Leftovers can be used, either in addition to a standard substrate base or as a substrate in their own right. Sourdough bread is an example of this: the protein-rich bread can be soaked and added to koji and salt to make breadso.
From a nutritional standpoint, miso has health benefits: the process of fermentation/enzymatic digestion breaks down food making it easier for the body to access micronutrients, easier to digest, and also a source of multiple amino acids and microorganisms.
Miso is valued for its delicious, complex flavour- an explosion of the basic flavour properties of its components. It gives a much larger scope to food, lending dignity to simple ingredients and creating beauty out of plain things. We are looking to create the most delicious food possible, so this capacity for flavour should be taken into consideration.
Finally, miso offers holistic health benefits because it is a traditional practice which encourages us to engage more closely with food. It creates value from humble things and requires (and rewards) patience. Most of all, it’s FUN. It is a platform for experimentation and innovation that enables us to discover and imagine possibilities beyond the immediate.
How do we use it?
Miso fits into the WK kitchen primarily as a process. This yields ingredients- but the resulting ingredient might be heavily defined by the things we choose to process in the first place.
Miso that’s been aged for 3 months has a much brighter flavour profile than a year-old version. This works nicely as an addition to salad dressings in lieu of mustard and/or vinegar.
The richness of a miso can be a great way to transform vegetables and other plain flavours. In the winter this is useful for root veg or for adding a more complex profile to things like broccoli or kale. We’ve used it on vegan pizzas with beetroot, squash, nuts, onions where the miso’s umami anchors the other flavours nicely.
It can be a great way to think outside the box on traditional flavours: our rapeseed meal miso (made with the leftovers from the cold-pressing of rapeseed to make rapeseed oil) has an intensely horseradish-y note (by virtue of horseradish and rapeseed being members of the brassica family). Horseradish is famously served with beef- so why not use rapeseed meal miso instead?
In summer we would look to make a miso with broad beans and peas when they are fresh in season, and then to use excess bread in the winter to create a winter breadso. If we have an excess of pulses like lentils or chickpeas, this is another prompt for a miso batch!