The Midnight Baker with Yeshe Dawa

Yeshe Dawa (AKA the Midnight Baker) thinks differently. She sees the world from perspectives grounded in traditional wisdom and illuminated by innovative solutions. She is considerate, but beyond being polite, considers everything she does from a very deep place. And it’s from that place that Yeshe makes things. Fashion things, organisational things, and food things, to name a few. She is fascinating, and perhaps the best way to connect with who she is, is to make one of her loaves of bread, appropriately called the Freedom Loaf. It seems that freedom, ultimately, may be what The Midnight Baker is all about. Let’s see.  

To start, you get to choose two types of Freedom Loaf to make:

BUCKWHEAT VERSION: Buckwheat*, sunflower seeds, linseed, pumpkin seeds*, psyllium husks*, chia seeds, salt. (*organic)

OAT VERSION: Oats, sunflower seeds, linseed, pumpkin seeds*, psyllium husks*, chia seeds, salt. (*organic)  

These breads are delicious, gut-healthy, and allergy friendly. They DO NOT taste like cardboard. This is an important distinction, especially if you’ve every tried ‘alternative breads’. If you’ve made, or had a slice of this loaf, you’ll know what we mean. If you haven’t, time to have a go. Your next question may be ‘how exactly did she come up with a flourless bread that tastes and feels so good?’. Glad you asked. class=”Apple-converted-space”> 

Yeshe grew up in a home where her mum looked past common solutions to most problems (she thought differently too). This was especially true when it came to nutrition. Back then it was either white bread or whole wheat on offer, but seeing as her mum and grandfather were both bakers, the family either bought the healthiest option available or they made their own. This kind of thinking also encouraged Yeshe to think out of the box and find solutions to problems she may run up against in life.  

Yeshe grew up in a home where her mum looked past common solutions to most problems (she thought differently too). This was especially true when it came to nutrition. Back then it was either white bread or whole wheat on offer, but seeing as her mum and grandfather were both bakers, the family either bought the healthiest option available or they made their own. This kind of thinking also encouraged Yeshe to think out of the box and find solutions to problems she may run up against in life.  

One such problem was her own health. Working through young adult life, Yeshe found she was not living well or treating her body well. Taking the issue seriously, she began to research whole foods, how to make them for herself, and then for her friends, and then for her community. Through substantial trial and error Yeshe eventually attracted a crew around these ideas, forming a business that would think differently all around. Now, the Midnight Bakers are making a few very thoughtful products in very interesting ways.  

But there’s more. And there should more be because why in the world would you pay more for a loaf of bread that you’re actually having to make yourself? On the surface, you could say it’s because if you ate whole foods like the Freedom Loaf, you may reduce allergic reactions, including those outside of your gut. You could also say it’s worth it because protein and fibre rich bread like this is more satiating and therefore slice for slice, is better value. You could also say, that like Yeshe, making bread yourself (slow food) is just plain healthier overall, especially when you consider how mindless bread buying and eating can be. If you’re doing the math, quality over quantity at this level always pays off.  

Still, Yeshe is interested in something deeper, which is actually baked into her products. She is nonplussed by the wellbeing industry and trends around instagrammable good looking results. Her heart is following a different path, a direction a lot of people are identifying with, especially here at Raeward Fresh. Yeshe, and the entire Midnight Baker crew, are deeply rooted in integrity. Being integral — from community engagement to paying a living wage to compostable processes to shared values and goals (I could go on, but word counts…) — is essential to these folks because it’s all leads to being in control of what they make, what they eat and how they live. You could say Yeshe, and by extension, The Midnight Baker is about agency. The ability to control what goes into your body, how it’s made, and how you feel about the whole process. This is the kind of freedom that Yeshe seems to be pursuing and has had the audacity to share with the rest of us. Props team! We invite you to see how this works and feels for yourself, hoping that you’re also seeking the kind of agency that promotes freedom in your own life.  

Farm Fresh South with Melissa and Logan

After tasting milk from Farm Fresh South you may be forgiven for thinking all other products are milk-like substances. It may be the fact that the 45 Friesian, Jersey and cross-breed cows on this sustainably managed farm are only getting milked once a day. It could also be that the lack of stress these happy cows have keeps their somatic cell count super low (denoting overall health). It could be that the milk is unhomogenized and therefore has that full-cream flavour like back in the day when milk was delivered with silver top lids. At the end of the milking day though, it’s probably all of these factors and more that make Farm Fresh South milk an amazing, almost nostalgic experience.  

Farm Fresh South comes to you by way of Melissa and Logan, dairy farmers who know their stuff and who have scaled from large dairy farming ventures to the 21 hectares they now run. Having been exposed to what larger operations do to get high milk outputs, they have intentionally decided to run a farm where the cows are treated in such a way as to be healthy and happy, which just so happens to produce a superior product. Avoiding high output situations, which demand chemical sprays, antibiotics and milking schedules stressing both the land and the cows, Mellissa and Logan have created a micro dairy which farms, milks, and processes all in one location — ensuring that the output is fresh as.  

Logan tells us at Raeward Fresh that high output farms create land which becomes addicted to the ‘drugs’ they are given in order to keep up. He explains that “when lots of chemical fertilisers are used, the grass can’t grow without it. Like it’s addicted. We are building the natural biology in the soil and only applying natural fertiliser. In this way Farm Fresh South has chosen a kind of journey with the land and animals which nurtures each other and teaches the farmers how to curate this natural relationship without chemical fertilisers and treatments for the cows. The result of this very old-school but very natural process can be seen in the actual milk platelets under a microscope where healthy whole milk can be directly contrasted to homogenised milk where the inputs are unnatural and the milk itself is stripped of its real goodness. There are causes and effects for every process that’s “added” to the mix, whereas Farm Fresh South prides itself on as few processes as possible.  


The dairy model Melissa and Logan have created has been so successful that other farmers are bringing their raw milk to Farm Fresh South to process and distribute. This innovative team are adding new products to the mix as well including full-cream chocolate milk using OCHO (Otago Chocolate Company). This, by the way is a beautiful product, not sickly sweet but rich and chocolatey and full of Pacific grown cacao goodness. Of course, all of these products are delivered in glass bottles that gets returned and reused by Farm Fresh South, a company that is reclaiming the old fashion kiwi spirit of local production delivered to locals in Southland and Otago. We’re all lucky to be in the region and having access to such beautifully made dairy by such innovative people.  

A Lady Butcher with Hannah Miller

Lamb prosciutto? NZ Wagyu bresaola? Free ranged dry cured Pork Scotch (Coppa)? What kind of mind creates these innovative, highly localised, modern takes on traditional charcuterie? Who can pull off such delicious variants using meats which most butchers wouldn’t dare to diverge with? Introducing A Lady Butcher, an outlier who’s deep knowledge and creative touch is bringing another chapter to the New Zealand meat story. 

Hannah Miller is a very cool young woman who’s been around the world (hailing from Portland, Oregon) learning her craft and who has now settled in Aotearoa to ‘bring home the Lardons’. Her story is nicely told on A Lady Butcher’s web site which you can read here. For our little blog though, I’ve chosen to focus in on a few meaty questions:

What was food like at home growing up in the U.S. of A?, favourite things, early lessons or ideas…?

Hannah starting cooking at age eight ‘cause she didn’t want to eat what her mom made. She loved watching Julia Childs on TV and observing both grandma’s who were awesome cooks — one focusing on the basics while the other was real experimental. The warm homey vibe of the kitchen was a real draw for Hannah where she learned to focus on simplicity and nutrition. 

What are some of the most important lessons you learned overseas and here in NZ?

While working in London at The Paternoster Chophouse the head chef Peter Weeden instilled in Hannah a keen sense of working with what’s right outside of your doorstep. There, she focused on foraging for ingredients, working closely with local farmers and bringing their stories back into the menu. And it’s these lessons she’s brought to NZ where she feels like she’s found some of the best meat in the world and revels in talking about soil all weekend with farmers like those at Grandad’s Beef in Raglan or discussing deep flavours with the lads at First Light Wagyu.

How did you learn about charcuterie?

These stories and learnings really come through in Hannah’s products, where building on 10 years of making charcuterie — especially working with Washington D.C. based chef Julian Shapiro, where she dug deep into science and methods — she’s learned how grass fed beef is ideal for curing bresaolas and when a grain finish works better for that buttery aged parmesan characteristic. Hannah’s knowledge of curing treatments, duration of ageing and seasoning is extraordinary for someone so young which shows how dedicated she is to the craft.

How did you settle on the offerings you have now?

Over the last few years Hannah has focused on five main products (for now) which really highlight the NZ meat story. For instance, when Southland farmer Bill French approached Hannah for a collaboration she decided to balance the natural salinity of Leeland’s coastal lamb flavour with rosemary and peppercorn. She’s done the same with First Light Wagyu and other meat suppliers pairing her great flavour skills with these naturally delicious meats.

What are some observations about the NZ food scene?

When Hannah first arrived in NZ she struggled to find many independent restaurants which highlighted the natural diversity of the country. Now however she’s seeing South American pop ups, fusion menus and people really wanting NZ Made goods in the recipes where provenance and free range meats matters more than ever. She also notes that people are getting more experimental at home where having restaurant quality ingredients are really important, especially during the international health crises where people are having to rediscover their kitchen and a love of cooking.

What’s your favourite food right now?

During lockdown Hannah used the time to test recipes like lamb bacon and various sausages. When she could get out and about frittatas (including her tasty lardons) were the go to as she could combine all these great leftovers into an easy to take away meal. These yummy packed lunches are especially essential right now as A Lady Butcher builds her new workspace / brewery / restaurant in Auckland’s Mt Eden. The innovation does not stop with this girl and at Raeward Fresh, we’re all the happier for her story aligning with ours.

PURE New Zealand Ice Cream with Anna Howard

It’s pretty rare to come across a product that completely surprises you with delight. Most foodies like myself have been around the culinary block enough times to accurately predict what we’re about to taste and experience. However, every now and then, you come across a product that changes your perception or harkens back to a time where food was just glorious. For instance, when I first opened the nicely packaged PURE NZ Ice Cream’s Boysenberry offering, I had it in mind that most products of this type were going to be overly sweet or trading off creaminess for a sorbet-like take on the subject. What happened instead, with the very fist spoonful, was the sense that I’d just bit into the most perfect, ripe and Summery boysenberry — you know that plump, sweet & tangy balance — that happened to be preserved in the form of a gelato-style ice cream. This full flavoured fruit in the form of a well crafted gelato was especially surprising because it was found not on the streets of Milan or Waiheke, but in a perfectly accessible tub at my local Raeward Fresh.

IceCream-Brownie-original-Med Pure NZ Boysenberry Ice Cream

 

Wanting to get the back story, I had the pleasure of interviewing Director and Head of PURE Production Anna Howard who handily made sense of my surprising experience. Anna grew up on a small farm in Akaroa, the fifth generation of her family to do so. Her connection with the land, pure flavours and processes, and the simplicity of raising her own food created the perfect backdrop for her culinary / business sense. Anna is both adventurous (as a world traveller) and a no nonsense artisan maker. Her values, her sense of taste, and her ability to innovate are grounded in the kiwi experience and as such she fully deserves to call her product PURE New Zealand …

Note: you can read more of Anna’s super interesting story on PURE NZ Ice Cream’s blog here:
www.purenzicecream.com/anna-howard

Pure NZ Lemon and Curd Ice Cream Pure NZ Lemon and Curd Ice Cream

 

Looking more closely at how Anna’s life and experience translates into wonderful ice creams, sorbets and gelatos I’ve identified what typically sets artisan makers apart from larger corporate entities. Firstly, Anna knows the central importance of exceptional ingredients. In fact, when asking her about the numbers of awards Pure NZ  Ice Cream regularly takes home she tells me that “we just stick to our core philosophies of only using real ingredients with nothing artificial, giving our ice creams intensely natural flavour and an eating experience which our cutomers love”. She’s so right. The difference between boysenberry flavour and the boysenberry itself is huge. Same with chocolate, fig, elderflower, kaffir lime and ginger (all PURE NZ flavours). If the actual ingredient isn’t pure and delicious, then the ice cream can only be an approximation (read – ‘boring’) of the idea. Secondly, those ingredients need to be captured in such a way that their integrity can be maintained from harvest to the first spoonful. This is why Anna has certain boysenberry producers in sunny Nelson pick their fruit at the perfect ripeness and then quickly freeze them into a pulp that can easily be added to a few other ingredients (which are always free of artificial preservatives, emulsifiers, stabilisers, colour or flavour enhancers). Finally, the actual production (creation, pasteurisation, churning and packaging) are done by hand at PURE NZ which adds a level of care and consistent quality which harkens back to the ice cream makers of old who did it for love first, pleasure second and then, naturally, profitability.

Pure NZ Elderflower Sorbet Pure NZ Elderflower Sorbet

 

Small and productive makers like Anna and her team are rewriting the rules of food creation. During the last century where scale and profitability trumped quality and customer satisfaction, companies churned out a range of cheap goods laced with additives in the place of purely delicious foods. Anna and Co. at PURE are showing how an emphasis on mostly local ingredients and processes can not only deliver value for money (more quality, less quantity, especially with ice cream!) but do so in a way that creates real joy and satisfaction while celebrating New Zealand’s roots in the mix. We fully endorse this at Raeward Fresh and invite you to try out the range of PURE NZ Ice Cream to taste what we mean for yourself.