A traditional Japanese soup with a L’ailOlive twist
Long gone are the days when miso was considered a rare and exotic Japanese ingredient—these days you’ll find the stuff on menus and supermarket shelves across the capital. As with most ingredients, though, there’s miso—and there’s miso. At L’ailOlive, you can rest assured you’re getting the very best.
“We source the ingredients from a high quality and very authentic Japanese grocery store,” explains founder Salina. The soup itself is made in small batches, from scratch, in L’ailOlive’s Brent Cross kitchens each week, ready to be brought to Borough the next day. “I don’t use any preservatives—everything is as natural as possible, so it needs to be completely fresh so that it’s at its best. It’s time-consuming, but it means it is good!”
Salina uses two types of miso paste: the traditional black paste, as well as white miso paste, “which is much milder. Sometimes miso soup is extremely salty, so this helps to tone that down—and it’s healthier, too.”
Ordinarily miso soup is made with dashi, a traditional Japanese stock containing tuna flakes, “but I wanted mine to be vegetarian, so I make it with shiitake mushrooms—that way everyone can enjoy it, and it gives it a slightly different flavour—as well as tofu and wakame, which is a type of seaweed. We buy it dried and soak it overnight so you don’t get that overpowering sea smell”—and, of course, her signature ingredient: elephant garlic.
“Garlic is not usually used in miso soup. It’s not a very Japanese ingredient.” Its inclusion came about serendipitously. “I use elephant garlic in our gyozas and I happened to have some left over. I often make the staff miso soup when we are in the kitchen, so I said hey, why don’t I try putting some in? And they loved it. I sent it off for taste testing and Borough said yes, it’s wonderful.”
Elephant garlic is fairly mild in flavour, “so it’s not overpowering. It’s a lot subtler than ordinary garlic”—it’s not garlic at all, in fact, but rather a member of the leek family. “It has very much got that leek-like flavour and aroma.” Topped with a sprinkling of spring onions, the result is a deliciously umami, steaming cup of comfort. Combined with a few of L’ailOlive’s hot handmade gyozas, you’ve the perfect lunch to see you through the most miserable of winter days.