When a 20-something Lyn Heywood moved from Indore in India's central west to Sydney in 1986 to join her elder sister, ghee – a clarified butter – wasn't yet a part of Australia's culinary collective consciousness.
Heywood lived in a major city, which meant she had access to an Indian grocer, a rarity at the time. "My whole family – we are three sisters – are all into food," Heywood says. Even back then in an Australia without ghee, Heywood managed to make biryani or "some kind of curry" when new friends came calling. "I still carried the recipes and the food. You never lose the taste for home."
Time moved on for Lyn. A year after her arrival, she met and married her Australian husband. A daughter and a son came next, as she ran a design company in Sydney that operated for 25 years. Still without ghee, poori and chicken curry formed the mainstay of Heywood's children's birthday parties and spice featured in the family diet.
In India, food is an integral part of the cultural identity, and as an Indian, ghee is a lot to miss. It is the flavour of our parents and our grandparents. Ghee is Saturday poori and the rich finish in the festive mithai. It's used in the burning of Diwali candles. Ghee is the foundation of dal and sabzi – the simple family curries that form daily diets. And it's also health: the ancient Indian medical system of Ayurveda prizes ghee as a sattvic food, a medicine that provides nourishment and balance for the human physical system.
However, over time, immigration from India to Australia increased, bringing with it a broader understanding of Indian cuisine. Somewhere along the way, those little green tins of ghee began popping up in Indian shops and - eventually – Asian grocers, speciality food stores and now mainstream supermarkets.
When Heywood's family moved from Sydney to Tasmania's rural Huon Valley seven years ago, Heywood began using ghee as a thread to draw closer her natal and adopted homelands.
"Coming to Tasmania, being in nature, having this space around, it really helps you relax and be creative," Heywood explains of the shift. "And that's what then allowed us to begin making and selling ghee."
Heywood's Gold42 ghee company (formerly called Golden Heart Ghee) is small, but its ghee is great. "When you look at ghee in India," Heywood says, "it's revered. It's used across everything. All our sweets are made with ghee. All our curries and veggies. It's held in very high regard from an Ayurvedic perspective."
Using organic milk from grass-fed animals has been important for Heywood and her husband and business partner Tony. This means their ghee has an authentic flavour. Indian customers at their Tasmanian market stall say it tastes like nani (grandma) made it. But they also love Gold42's flavoured ghee. The range is extensive: think ghee with pepper berry and kunzea, caramel ghee with cinnamon and turmeric and garlic-herb ghee. Hot tip: chocolate ghee is sinful in a bulletproof coffee. Also, chilli and lemon ghee is made for seafood.
Heywood says flavouring ghee helps to acquaint non-Indian cooks with it. She notes how caramel ghee makes beautiful shortbread or crumble, and adding it to porridge makes it sweet and rich. "Our first flavour was garlic and herb, which is fairly common across Australia, and [it helps] people understand ghee so much more. We are introducing a very Indian product to a different taste experience."
"Our first flavour was garlic and herb, which is fairly common across Australia, and [it helps] people understand ghee so much more."
Heywood loves Australians' openness and thinks her ghee helps her share more of who she is with more people.
New customers, who stop by the Gold42 stall, need to taste the ghee before Heywood tells them more about it. "I say taste and I will tell," she laughs. But it works. She says once the creamy sweetness hits their mouths, it's easier to understand ghee with roast potato, ghee with scrambled egg, or ghee stirred through cooked rice. And maybe it's also a little easier to understand each other.
Heywood pauses for a moment, then says: "When you are at the markets and have that ability to give people that taste… It's a great connection and it is a great way of sharing."
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