Yesterday was ANZAC day, a day of remembrance for Australia and New Zealand. Originally it was to remember the troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought and died at Gallipoli, but it has grown to encompass all who have served and died for the two countries in all the wars we have fought. One tradition associated with ANZAC day is ANZAC biscuits, so today we’re going to have a look at the history of these chewy, tasty treats. There’s more to it than you might know.
During the first world war, soldiers rations included a biscuit known as ANZAC Wafer or ANZAC Tile which was akin to Hard Tack – a hard bread substitute which has a very long shelf life. The Tiles were so hard they prompted a Lieutenant A L Dardel in 1915 to comment that “the man who can eat Gallipoli stodge (called bread) can eat anything… somebody will break his neck someday wandering round with his eyes shut and his teeth clenched on a biscuit trying to bite it through”. To make them more palatable, soldiers often broke them up and cooked them with water to make a kind of porridge.
Wives, mothers and sisters back home heard about the dreadful Tack and were worried that their boys were not getting enough nutrients. ANZAC biscuits are made from oats, flour, and coconut as well as sugar, golden syrup, all ingredients that were not difficult to get during the war. The notable exclusion of eggs in the recipe is to stop the biscuit spoiling during the long trip to reach the solders so far away. Eggs were also in short supply during the war, due to the poultry farmers joining the war effort.
In a 2006 study of the significance of Anzac biscuits, 2006, ‘Anzac Biscuits — A Culinary Memorial’ Dr Sian Supski says: “Anzac biscuits are a powerful reminder of an event that is regarded as one of Australia’s pivotal moments as a nation. They also signify women’s input to the war effort on the home front. Importantly, Anzac biscuits link generations of grandmothers, mothers and daughters.” (You can find the whole study here) There’s not a lot of biscuits that have such a significant social history as that!
Making these biscuits not only connects you to the solders in the field who ate them, but to the wives, mothers, girlfriends and sisters who did what they could to lift morale and look after their loved ones who were so far away.
Our recipe today is straight from the Australian War Memorial’s website, which was given to them by Bob Lawson, an ANZAC present at the Gallipoli landing.
•1 cup each of plain flour, sugar, rolled oats, and coconut
•4 oz butter
•1 tbls treacle (golden syrup)
•2 tbls boiling water
•1 tsp bicarbonate soda (add a little more water if mixture is too dry)
1. Grease biscuit tray and pre-heat oven to 180°C.
2. Combine dry ingredients.
3. Melt together butter and golden syrup. Combine water and bicarbonate soda, and add to butter mixture.
4. Mix butter mixture and dry ingredients.
5. Drop teaspoons of mixture onto tray, allowing room for spreading.
6. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool on tray for a few minutes before transferring to cooling racks.