In this post, I’ll be combining history with recipe sharing, the occasion being Anzac Day on 25 April.
A few years ago, I embarked on a project which I called “366 biscuits”.
The aim was to collect enough biscuit recipes to have one for every day of the year. I asked my friends, favourite actors and chefs which biscuit they liked best and those went on the list on their respective birthdays (or a day earlier or later when people were born on the same day).
I’ve been making Anzac biscuits before I started the “biscuit project”, so there wasn’t any doubt where they would go on the “biscuit calendar”.
I hope you’ll try them.
A bit of history
Let me start by explaining what Anzac stands for: Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.
During the First World War (or Great War, depending where you are reading this), on 25 April 1915 to be exact, the allied troops tried to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in Italy. Australian and New Zealand soldiers, also known as Anzacs, were part of this expedition. The campaign lasted eight months, at the end, the allied forces were evacuated. A lot of lives were lost. Amongst which 8,500 Australians and 2,779 New Zealanders.
Not long after this, 25 April became the day on which Australians and New Zealanders remember the people who lost their lives in the war.
It has undergone an evolution over the years. It now is a public holiday in both Australia and New Zealand.
Nowadays, on Anzac Day, all servicemen and women killed in war are commemorated. The day starts with dawn services at the time of the original landing in Gallipoli everywhere in Australia and New Zealand. Later in the day there are marches and parades. At war memorials more formal commemorative ceremonies are held.
Since the First World War (Great War), the red poppy has become a symbol of remembering wars and is worn in the UK and other countries in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day on 11 November. Only when doing some research for this blog, did I learn that New Zealanders wear them too. Not around Remembrance Day but around Anzac Day. Over there Poppy Day itself is marked on the Friday before Anzac Day (unless it is a Good Friday) and the poppy is worn through to 25 April. This red flower (her comes the connection between me and the First World War), also called Flanders poppy, grew on the battlefields of Flanders. The Canadian poet and physician, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, immortalized this flower and its connection with Flanders is his poem “In Flanders Fields”. I’ll be wearing mine I got at the “In Flanders Fields Museum” in Ypres.
Now for the biscuit that took its name from the Gallipoli mission. I found a lot of sources that refer to the birth of the biscuit. Following information comes from the New Zealand National Army Museum’s website.
Contrary to what a lot of people believe, there were no Anzac biscuits at Gallipoli. There is some evidence that indicates that a kind of rolled oats biscuit was sent to the troop on the Western Front, though this was not widespread. It was custom to raise money for the war effort by selling this kind of biscuits at public events at home. Because of their connection with the troops serving overseas, they were called “soldier’s biscuits” and their ingredients don’t only make them a nutritious, full of energy but also a long-lasting biscuit. After the First World War they got the name Anzac biscuit and were first mentioned in a cookbook in 1921.
The recipe I’m sharing, is one I’ve used for years. I assembled it from two recipes I found in my many cookbooks.
Earlier this year, I got myself a biscuit tin that one of the leading Belgian biscuits companies issued to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. I’ll be using that to store my Anzac biscuits from now on.
Ingredients (makes 20)
- 85 g rolled oats
- 85 g desiccated coconut
- 100 g plain flour
- 100 g light brown sugar
- 100 g butter, melted
- 1 tbsp golden syrup
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Line 2-3 baking trays with parchment paper.
- Put the oats, coconut, flour and sugar in a bowl.
- Melt the butter in a small pan or microwave and stir in the golden syrup.
- Add the bicarbonate of soda to 2 tablespoons of boiling water, then stir into the golden syrup and butter mixture.
- Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the butter and golden syrup mixture.
- Stir gently to incorporate the dry ingredients.
- Use a small ice cream scoop, roll dough into ball and flatten with fork.
- Put on baking sheets, about 2.5 cm apart to allow room for spreading.
- Bake in batches for 8-10 minutes until golden.
- Transfer to wire rack to cool.
- Store in an airtight container.
- There’s no reason you should only bake these for Anzac Day. As a little friend of mine said to her mother when she got hold of the recipe: “I’m taking this home to make it there. Not only on 25 April, but more often. There’s no harm in remembering the soldiers more often!”.
- If you want to learn more about Anzac Day, this Australian and this New Zealand website have plenty of information.
* From the fourth verse of Laurence Binyon’s “For the Fallen” (as part of the dawn service on Anzac Day).