My first long haul flight was when I was just over the threshold of eight years of age. I’m afraid my memories of it are scant, the strongest one being that I had the special job of carrying the mantapa, the small Hindu altar that my great-grandfather had carved out of rosewood. A close second is the memory of the confusing emotions that each of us, myself and my parents, carried with us. A healthy scoop of excitement stirred through a pinch of sadness and a heaped tablespoon of apprehension at the thought of starting a new chapter at our destination, Australia.
I had no appreciation of how brave my parents were then, leaping into a new life in a country they had never even visited. Approaching with a few thousand rupees, a weak currency against the dollar even then, and a pocketful of hope, we were Sydney-bound with very little idea of what to expect. As a family, we learnt our way around not only the Sydney streets, but also the Australian culture and vernacular. We learnt fairly quickly that “How ya going?” invited an answer of “Good thanks!” or “Not bad!”, and not the reply “By bus!”. It was a hard lesson when we realised that ‘Bring a plate’ meant a prepared dish, not what the phrase implies in a literal sense.
More than twenty-five years later, we are about as Australian as the average Australian. We make pakoras on Christmas day, party on New Year’s Eve and go to the temple for Hindu new years. When asked about our background we identify as Indian but while travelling outside Australia we are fiercely proud to declare ourselves Aussie. We wear saris and bindis at Diwali to exchange gifts of new clothes, and gorge on chocolate eggs at Easter. Rather than barbeques laden with meat and onions on Sunday afternoons, we spread dosa (south Indian rice crepes) onto hot pans and dunk them in chutney and sambhar. On Australia day, we have the added celebration of Indian Republic day, an interesting coincidence. Some years, to be honest, it’s simply rest-day or spring-cleaning day!
The mantapa now inhabits my spare room, enclosing my small shrine. It is where I pray before I go forth to conquer the day and before I sit down to a meal, whether Indian, Italian, Thai or Australian. Like me, it is Indian-manufactured and Australian-developed, it’s wood as solid and un-weathered as my cultural identity.
There are days when I feel not Indian enough and a few cents short of Aussie enough. And other days when I know I am standing comfortably in the middle of the see-saw, perfectly balanced. I am more a True-Brown Indian-Australian than a True-Blue Aussie, and this seems to work just fine.
Mangoes and coconuts are well-loved ingredients in both India and Australia and the Mango-Macadamia combination is a popular on in my adopted country. These truffles pack all the flavour of mangoes, with the textural elements of coconut and macadamia butter. They are vegan and free of refined sugar and gluten.
Happy Australia Day and Indian Republic day folks!
MMC (Mango, Macadamia and Coconut) Truffles
100g dried mango, soaked in water for 1-2 hours
1/3 cup macadamia butter
2 tbsp coconut sugar
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
3 tbsp protein powder
1 tbsp flaxseed meal
2 tbsp quinoa flour (or another 2 tbsp protein powder)
1/4 cup shredded coconut + more for coating
Coconut oil (optional)
Drain the water from the soaked mango. Pulse the mango with all the ingredients, except for the extra shredded coconut and the coconut oil, in a high-speed food processor, until a smooth mixture forms. Roll into tbsp sized balls, adding a little coconut oil if the mixture is too firm. Toss the truffles in the extra shredded coconut and refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours.