Today is the 25th of April, and in Australia that means Anzac Day with solemn dawn services, followed by parades, games of two-up, drinks and lots of noise for the rest of the day. And biscuits? We eat those sweet, crunchy Anzac biscuits any time of year, but they have a special history.
The biscuits we all know as Anzac biscuits started life as a gift for the serving husbands, brothers, sons, friends and uncles who made up 39% of Australia’s fighting-age men in the Great War (only a quarter of them came back intact). The biscuits had been called soldier’s biscuits, but they became known as Anzac biscuits after news of disaster of the day we now know as the first Anzac Day reached Australia, and the new name stuck.
The genius is that these biscuits contain nothing perishable: no eggs, no butter. They are nourishing, enjoyable (unlike standard army biscuits in 1915) and long-lasting. The syrup is the binding agent, and sugar is a great preservative. Provided they are stored in an air-tight tin, they will last for months. This was crucial in the early unrefrigerated 1900s when the ships took months to reach the battle fronts.
Anzac Day itself marks the start of a dreadfully planned and executed military invasion of Turkey in 1915 that failed to meet any of its strategic expectations. It wasn’t an auspicious beginning for the first military engagement of a new nation, Australia, and its close ally, New Zealand. It didn’t do much for our relationship with the British command. The only real triumph was the astonishingly successful retreat 10 months later, unthwarted as it was by the (British) military genius who had the idea of an invasion at that beach in the first place. The Anzac Day celebrations in Australia remember all that, the importance for Australia’s national identity, and more.
So here’s the recipe. It’s name and recipe are regulated under Australian law; it is never called a cookie because of the “non-Australian overtones” of that word! Anzac is itself a regulated word in Australia: could you guess where the A, N and Z come from if I told you the last two letters stand for Army Corps?
- 1 cup of rolled oats
- 1 cup of plain flour
- 3/4 cup of sugar
- 3/4 cup of dessicated coconut
- 2 tablespoons of golden syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tablespoon of boiling water
- Mix the oats, flour, sugar and coconut together.
- Melt the butter and syrup together over a gentle heat (we use the medium power setting on the microwave).
- Mix the bicarb soda and boiling water, then add this to the melted butter and syrup, and stir it all into the dry ingredients.
- Using your hands, form the mix into walnut-sized balls and place them into a lightly greased tray: be careful to leave enough room for the biscuits to spread out as they cook.
- Cook in a slow over at 150 degrees C (300F) for about 20 minutes or until they are a nice, golden brown.
- Let them cool down, then eat the lot with your friends and family.
Written in celebration of Anzac Day, but it also fits well with this week’s WordPress Writing Challange