.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Anzac Biscuits for ANZAC Day

If you're ever given the challenge of making a traditional Australian/New Zealand food for an event, your child's school, whatever, then this is the one! A true, unique Aussie/Kiwi food!
Yesterday was ANZAC day here in Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, at least, the day is a public holiday, similar to the US Veteran's day, but in our case it commemorates the day of the bloody, tragic Battle at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War I. It is a day marked by services at Shrines of Rememberance and war memorials in every city and town across Australia, and the only day when it is legal to play two-up, an "ancient" Aussie gambling game involving planks of wood,2 copper coins and copious pints of beer!

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and it must be remembered that during World War I, the Australian and NZ army corps were fighting for the British, under the British flag. The British army had sustained major losses and the Prime Minister called on the colonies to join fight with the British. Or to be more blunt, we were used as canon fodder.
That April 25 the British made a decision to invade the Gallipoli Peninsula. In order to distract enemy troops, they sent thousands of the Australian and New Zealand troops to land on the beaches. The thing is, the beach was surrounded by cliffs, and those cliffs were full of soliders with guns. Our boys had no chance, and that day thousands of young Australian and New Zealand soldiers were sacrificed by the British in a tactical error of enormous proportions. The Australian population at that time was only 5 million, and we lost tens of thousands of lives during a war that meant little to our country, but was fought with goodwill for our mother country.
It is now said that it was that event that shaped the Australian future. Suddenly we couldn't look up to Mother England as our protector as we had witnessed how they had treated us. It was at that point that Australia started to turn away from Britain, and attempt more independence. Commentators today say the Australian spirit of mateship and determination was forged at Gallipoli and all kinds of other sugary cliches, but it's not an overstatement that the easy-going nature of the Australians and New Zealanders was abused, and we were hurt and insulted.
I have to point out that I love the UK. I'm a great fan of Britain, but this is one event I just have never been able to understand and it still makes me upset. A lot my feelings must come from the excellent movie Gallipoli, with a young Mel Gibson which I recommend you watch (with a box of tissues). I had to watch this film in Year 9 history, and I remember being in tears all through the next classes!

But onto cheerier thoughts! One positive thing that emerged from World War I is one of the very few distinctively Aussie/Kiwi culinary creations, the Anzac biscuit. I took the following text from the Anzac Day site above, as it describes in more detail about these yummy biscuits.
During World War 1 and World War 2, Australians were fiercely patriotic. The wives, mothers and girlfriends were concerned for the nutritional value of the food being supplied to their men. Here was a problem. Any food they sent to the fighting men had to be carried in the ships of the Merchant Navy. Most of these were lucky to maintain a speed of ten knots (18.5 kilometres per hour). Most had no refrigerated facilities, so any food sent had to be able to remain edible after periods in excess of two months. A body of women came up with the answer - a biscuit with all the nutritional values possible. The basis was a Scottish recipe using rolled oats which were used extensively in Scotland, especially for a heavy porridge that helped counteract the extremely cold climate.
The ingredients they used were rolled oats, sugar, plain flour, coconut, butter, golden syrup or treacle, bi-carbonate of soda and boiling water. All these items did not readily spoil.

A point of interest is the lack of eggs to bind the ANZAC biscuit mixture together. Because of the war, many of the poultry farmers had joined the services, thus eggs were scarce. The binding agent for the biscuits was golden syrup or treacle.
As the war drew on, many groups like the CWA (Country Women's Association), church committees, schools and other women's organisations devoted a great deal of time to the making of ANZAC biscuits. To ensure that the biscuits remained crisp, they were packed in used tins such as Billy Tea tins. The tins were airtight, thus no moisture in the atmosphere was able to soak into the biscuits and make them soft.
I have to admit, I never knew that about the lack of eggs in the recipe before and found it very interesting. The use of golden syrup (light treacle) really gives these biscuits their distinctive taste. To me it's such a taste of Australia, so yesterday I couldn't not whip up a batch. They're incredibly easy to make and have so few ingredients. I cooked them up at my boyfriend's house where his cousin was also staying, and I've never seen two grown men get so excited about biscuits warm from the oven. Later on when A's dad turned up I fully expected he'd eat his way through the whole tin!
I found this recipe on Barbara's site, and it makes a great crispy biscuit; the perfect Anzac texture.

Read on for the recipe:

125g (4 ozs) Flour
150g (6ozs) Sugar
1 cup Coconut
1 cup Rolled Oats
75g (30zs) Butter
2 tablespoon Golden Syrup
1/2 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
2 tablespoons Boiling water

Mix together flour, sugar, oats and coconut.
Melt butter and Golden Syrup.
Dissolve Bicarbonate of soda in boiling water and add to butter mixture.
Mix liquid ingredients with the dry ingredients.
Place in spoonfuls onto a cold greased (or lined with baking paper) tray.
Bake 15 - 20 minutes at 180C( 350F). Make sure the batter is pressed down, because you don't want chunky Anzacs. That'd just be wrong! I went into the oven with a spoon half way through the cooking to press them down as I thought they had puffed up a little too much.
Barbara notes: The mixture may seem a little dry but it will bind together while it cooks. I used a dessertspoonful size and the biscuits were cooked perfectly at 15 minutes baking time.
This recipe has been adapted from the Edmonds Cookbook.


  • Would you believe I actually knew about ANZAC day, and Anzac biscuits?!

    I've read way too many history books over the years, plus Matt's background is in anthropolgy/archaeology. On a much smaller scale, our black troops were mis-used in World War II, as well.

    You look back at these events, and wonder how in the world something like that could happen. And you know what? Fifty, one hudred years from now, people will be saying the same exact thing!

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 4/27/2005 02:35:00 am  

  • oooh they look great! and nice and thick too. i made some too but they were bloody shocking! I put too many on the tray which didn't help, but also recipe had 3 times the bicarb and double the butter. looks like your recipe is a goer!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/27/2005 03:09:00 am  

  • Beautiful, Niki. I love Anzac biscuits and have never made them myself! No time like the present to get started, though.

    By Blogger Nic, at 4/27/2005 09:34:00 am  

  • Stephanie - Hey, good on you! I'm impressed; so many people have never heard of Anzacs. I didn't know that about the US black troops, but I can't say I'm surprised. I totally agree with you; looking back we'll wonder how on earth we could have sent boys to fight for a cause that doesn't seem to matter to so many people.

    Shauna - heh heh. What I didn't write about or photo was my *complete* failure with the second batch - they were too thin and I forgot about them while I took the photos. I yanked them out to find them dark, dark brown with black rings around them. Sadly, those are the biscuits I got to take home with me!
    Incidentally, I think I put in too much bicarb too, because mine puffed up too much (hence having to dive in half way through and push them down with a spoon!)

    By Blogger Niki, at 4/27/2005 09:38:00 am  

  • Hey Nik - they look great. And lets not forget the 87,000 Turks that lost their lives at Gallipoli along with the Australians(about 8.700) and New Zealanders(2,800). I'm not sure of exact figures but around these numbers.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/27/2005 02:22:00 pm  

  • Barbara - yes, you're quite right and it was remiss of me not to mention the Turkish as well. It is a poignant event each year to see representatives of the Turkish army involved in Gallipoli services with the Australians and New Zealanders.

    By Blogger Niki, at 4/27/2005 03:37:00 pm  

  • I've seen Gallipoli before and you are right, a box of tissues is needed. It resonates with us, I suppose, with our soldiers fighting under the American flag during WWII. A good number of veterans are still fighting for their compensation to this day. :(

    Anyway, my Aussie friends make it their mission to educate me about ANZAC Day. Unfortunately, none of them have given me any cookies! Bad, bad friends.

    This is indeed the comfort zone, Niki. I get a nice warm tingly feeling when I look at your baked goodies. And that's coming from someone who's not fond of sweets!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/28/2005 08:36:00 am  

  • Karen - wow, thank you for your comments! Yes, tehre are more sweets and baked goods on the site, because those are usually the more involved and interesting things I make. I also follow recipes for them, and can't usually remember exactly what I did or what quantities I used when making savoury food. I know I'm more likely to look at someone's blog for cake/biscuit recipes.
    I actually didn't know that about your soliders fighting with the US Army; it sounds like that sort of thing was endemic around the world, sadly.

    By Blogger Niki, at 4/28/2005 04:41:00 pm  

  • Oh Karen - you must try making Anzac biscuits, even if they're a gift for your friends (then maybe the next year, they'll make them for you!;-) )

    By Blogger Niki, at 4/28/2005 04:42:00 pm  

  • Hi Niki!
    I know about ANZAC day but didn't know of the cookies!
    You see, I am originally turkish and have even been to Gallipoli and find the whole battle just so meaningless....
    You were drown in by the British, we were drown in by the German (Ottoman Empire wasn't involved in WW1 till two German U-Boots seeked refugee in Istanbul running away from British war ships), the battle in Gallipoli was for nothing because we defended it against your guys (who were mere kids) but had to clear the strait anyways because the German gave in... Such a big mess for both sides.
    In Turkey, at school and outside, the ANZAC are always remembered lovingly, they are not seen as enemies we fought against but rather as innocent "collaterals" (as would be called nowadays).
    What a nice way to remember the guys: with some cookies!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/03/2005 01:22:00 am  

  • I made anzacs at school but the teacher didnt know what she was doing and they tasted uncooked

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/02/2005 08:40:00 pm  

  • I've used mollasses instead of the golden syrup we don't have here (in Brazil) and it was wonderfull! Thank you!

    By Blogger Karen, at 1/22/2006 07:21:00 am  

  • Hi, I just tried out the recipe. But the biscuits did not turn out crispy. They are more chewy, although I have made them rather thin. Wonder if you have any idea where I had gone wrong? Thanks!

    By Blogger Julie, at 1/23/2006 10:07:00 pm  

  • Julie - A good Anzac biscuit should be almost a combination of crispy and chewy. Crispy from the oats, but chewy from the syrup soaked coconut, so they may not be so bad! The ones you buy in supermarkets are always crispy, but I dont like them like that. A combination is good.
    I didn't have a great success with the last batch I made either; they turned out a bit too hard, and like rocks. Sometimes it just depends on the weather and your mood, I think.

    By Blogger Niki, at 1/23/2006 10:22:00 pm  

  • Thanks, Niki. Since golden syrup is a substitute for eggs, I wonder whether that would mean that most baked products with golden syrup would be on the chewier side? Btw, your blog is really interesting to read!!

    By Blogger Julie, at 1/24/2006 10:42:00 am  

  • Is this the sweetened coconut? Or the shredded, dried, unsweeted stuff?

    I'm guessing the sweetened as there is not much sugar added - but I could be worng! Please advise as I would love to make them : )

    By Blogger oddlyme, at 7/31/2007 09:32:00 am  

  • Hi - Yes, it's the dried, unsweetened coconut; we don't have pacakged sweetened coconut in Australia. It's actually the dessicated type we use, which are much shorter lengths than shredded, but I'm not sure if that's easily available in other countries.
    You're right that there's not much normal sugar, but they are quite sweet because of the golden syrup (aka light treacle) in them.

    By Blogger Niki, at 7/31/2007 10:23:00 am  

  • I made these again last night and they worked a treat. I miss your blog, sniff sniff! Hope life is treating you well :)

    Shauna in Scotland

    By Blogger Shauna, at 4/24/2008 08:25:00 pm  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/09/2008 01:07:00 am  

  • thanks...

    3gp video indir,mp3,ilahi,telefon şakaları,oyun,gazete,spor,haber

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/26/2009 06:13:00 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home