Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What's An ANZAC?

If you're from New Zealand or Australia, you probably know the answer. Those two countries combined armies for a time during the First World War. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was a First World War army corps of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force that was formed in Egypt in 1915 and operated during the Battle of Gallipoli. They were disbanded after that battle. In Greece in 1941 during the Second World War they also fought together under that name and again in the Vietnam conflict.

They are also a delicious biscuit (cookie in America) which was sent to soldiers and also sold to raise money for the troops and later the veterans. (Recipe at the bottom.) At the website they give this info:

"During World War 1, the wives, mothers and girlfriends of the Australian soldiers 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 kilometers 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 value possible. The basis was a Scottish recipe using rolled oats. These oats 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. At first the biscuits were called Soldiers’ Biscuits, but after the landing on Gallipoli, they were renamed ANZAC Biscuits.

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. Eggs that were sent long distances were coated with a product called ke peg (like Vaseline) then packed in air tight containers filled with sand to cushion the eggs and keep out the air.

As the war drew on, many groups like the CWA (Country Women’s Association), church groups, 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 air was able to soak into the biscuits and make them soft. Most people would agree there is nothing worse than a soft biscuit.

During World War II, with refrigeration in so many Merchant Navy Ships, the biscuits were not made to any great extent. It was now possible to send a greater variety of food, like fruit cake.
ANZAC biscuits are still made today. They can also be purchased from supermarkets and specialty biscuit shops. Around ANZAC Day, these biscuits are also often used by veterans’ organisations to raise funds for the care and welfare of aged war veterans."

We had a visit from an Australian friend and his sister today, so I made some anzac biscuits using his wife's recipe to go with our tea. I have fond memories of watching her make them in their kitchen in Perth. This is a really easy, quick recipe as long as you have all the ingredients on hand. Your house will also smell wonderful with the butter, sugar, coconut, nuts and oats fragrances. Best of all they are irresistible. Hard to only eat one.

Anzac Cookies
makes about 2 dozen

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted
2 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons golden syrup
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup self-rising flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup dry coconut
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2) Combine the melted butter, hot water, golden syrup and brown sugar in a mixing bowl (or the pot you melted the butter in if it large enough to hold the batter). Stir to blend well.

3) On a sheet of waxed paper combine the oats, flours, salt and soda. You could also combine them in a mixing bowl.

4) Add the nuts, coconut, dry ingredients and dried fruit to the butter mixture. Stir to blend well.

5) Pack dough into greased small tart pans or make into drop cookies on a cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minute until golden brown. (New note: Check cookies at 10 and 13 minutes :)

6) Cool cookies on wire rack. Store in airtight container. These cookies ship well. Enjoy!

1 comment :

  1. Wow to the Vaseline-covered eggs.

    I have had these and made these and they do keep so well and they're so tasty. And very low-key. The sort of cookie you can make in your sleep, though it's always cute how my NZ friends discuss whether or not they taste right - I think bicarbonate in Australia/NZ must taste different... or it's maybe a matter of the flour being wetter/drier again...