Anzac Day Traditions
Anzac Day, it's on our doorstep again and for me it means a walk down in the chill of the morning to pay my respects at my local Anzac Day service, followed by a good few rounds of 'Two-Up' at the local bowlo and finished off with a cuppa and binge on some home baked Anzac bickies.
As you may recall I had a visit to the Australian War Memorial (AWM) recently and during that visit, I also found some wonderful culinary wartime memories woven into the displays. I couldn't begin to have imagined what the whole food part of a war would have been like, certainly in those early years. Who was cooking? And what, how, when and where? I guess that's why so many of the of men in the trenches were just skin and bones back then. I stumbled across this printed menu which was for a Christmas Dinner for the 23rd Battalion of the AIF, from the year 1918. Special mention must go to the "cigarettes" listed in the dessert section, in-between the "nuts" and "cafe Noir" of course. It did bring a smile to my face, as did the little foodie poem "A Christmas Cramm" which accompanied it.
The history of the Anzac biscuit The Anzac biscuit in more recent times has become a year round staple in many Australian homes, it has however, a little bit of a sketchy past. On my recent investigations at the AWM, I found that there wasn't really any evidence of the so called 'Anzac biscuit' recipe until the early 1920’s. This is well past the date of the actual World War 1 period where brave soldiers from Australia and NZ were first recognised as Anzac's after their initial landing onto the shores of Gallipoli in April, 1915. It seems the biscuits which were sent from loved ones over to the front line during this period, were more of a rock hard wafer block, shaped quite precisely into 90mm flat squares, roughly the size of a piece of bread. They were made specifically with basic non-perishable ingredients so that they would travel the distance and be nutritious on arrival. With that brief and in that day, when you look at the recipe here, you will see it may have been somewhat lacking in the yum department! To back up my findings, I found a great quote on the AWM website from Father John Fahey who was serving at Gallipoli,
"the man who invented the army biscuit was an un mitigated rascal. As an eatable there is little to choose between it and a seasoned jarrah board"
These 'Soldiers Biscuits' were eaten as a substitute to bread but they were quite the opposite being very hard (very, very hard) and hence they were affectionately know as Anzac 'tiles'. The troops found ways to get creative with these 'tiles' by grinding them down and popping them into their hot tea and then eating it like a porridge. They would also mix them with jam and bake them over hot coals into little sweet tarts. When they were feeling really inspired, they were used as a perfect backing board for a picture frame, a painted canvas and even so durable that they would write messages on them and send them home to loved ones! How darn great were our people at war!
The Anzac biscuit recipe as we know today, was more likely made by our soldiers wives and girlfriends around the 1920's and sold at local street stalls to raise money for wartime efforts. The early recipes were without coconut, however the other ingredients have basically remained unchanged and have held strong till this day.
The Anzac biscuit, always in our hearts
They have been ingrained in our culinary history, as I'm sure we all would have been touched by the Anzac biscuit in some way or another. From stopping at a Country Womens Association (CWA) street side stall, fundraising school fetes and even as many of us will recall, they would have held the honour of being our very first baking or cooking moment as a child. Each year for as long as I have known, I have come across these golden delights without failure. So it’s with great pleasure, privilege and respect for all of our current and past serving military, that I bring you my recipe for these yummy, crunchy and a little bit chewy delights.
1 cup oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup coconut
2 tbsp golden syrup
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
Preheat oven to 150C deg (I used fan forced setting for this recipe)
In a large bowl, combine oats, flour, sugar and coconut. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add golden syrup. Once melted simmer for 2 mins. Remove from heat and carefully add bicarbonate soda (it will foam up), mixing until well to combined.
Add to dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
Roll tablespoons of mix into balls and press onto lightly greased baking trays, leaving enough space between biscuits to expand (this recipe holds quite well so I had about 7-8 per baking tray. I baked them in a couple of batches).
Bake for 20mins. Carefully loosen from trays while still warm, then cool on trays.
Makes around 24
make sure you use traditional oats and not quick oats for this recipe as the full oat helps to provide you with a touch of chewiness
try not to over mix the dough or it will become too tough
I used dark brown sugar in this recipe (actually simply because it was all I had in the cupboard at the time) which gave the biscuits a slightly darker look, due to the higher level of molasses in this type of sugar. They were the best I have ever made!
I made a combo of smaller and larger ones just because sometimes it's nice to have a choice on how much you want to eat. I cooked the larger ones for an extra minute.
As these biscuits are so easy to make, they are perfect for getting your kids or grandchildren into the kitchen and creating your very own Anzac Day traditions. And more importantly, it's also a great opportunity to have a chitty chat about why Anzac Day (and these biscuits) are so important.
Best way to enjoy them... grab your cuppa, head outside and enjoy a peaceful moment to reflect on this special day.
Spirit, mateship, courage and sacrifice,
we will always remember them.