Something I learnt when visiting Japan is that miso soup can be anything you want. Here in Australia, most miso soup is the instant stuff. In Japan, most restaurants (and probably most families) make their own from dashi stock and miso paste, and add whatever else is in season. My favourites were a seafood version with teeny tiny clams (the size of your thumbnail!) and a vegan version with vegetables. So here's a winter pumpkin miso soup. To make it from scratch you can make your own stock with dried konbu (seaweed) and katsuobushi (bonito flakes), but the stock sachets taste pretty good and can be easier to find in the supermarket.
Pumpkin Miso Soup (serves 4)
1 litre water
1 sachet konbu stock
1 sachet dashi stock
1 tablespoon white miso paste (shiro miso)
150g jap pumpkin, cut into 1cm dice with the skin left on
Optional: diced tofu, sliced shallots or dried wakame
Mix the stock and water and bring up to a simmer (do not boil!). Place the miso paste into a ladle, and scoop up some of the stock. Use a small spoon or a chopstick to slowly melt and blend the paste into the stock. Add the pumpkin and gently simmer until the pumpkin is tender but not falling apart.