Today, in Australia, is ANZAC Day. So, I thought it was appropriate to give a quick history lesson to those who are not from around these parts:
ANZAC Day – 25 April – is probably Australia’s most important national occasion. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. The soldiers in those forces quickly became known as ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.), and the pride they took in that name endures to this day.
When war broke out in 1914, Australia had been a federal commonwealth for only 13 years. In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles. The ultimate objective was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey), the capital of the Ottoman Empire.
The Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. Although it was planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly, the campaign dragged on for eight months. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated, after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships.
Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the Australian and New Zealand actions during the campaign left us all a powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as the ANZAC Legend became an important part of the identity of both nations, shaping the ways they viewed both their past and their future.
With the coming of the Second World War, ANZAC Day also served to commemorate the lives of Australians who died in that war. In subsequent years the meaning of the day has been further broadened to include Australians killed in all the military operations in which Australia has been involved.
Continuing with the theme of today’s post:
ANZAC biscuits date back to World War I, and were eaten by our troops on the shores of Gallipoli and the fields of Flanders.
The original Anzac biscuit was known as an Anzac wafer or tile and, along with beef bully, was part of the rations given to our soldiers during World War I. They were included instead of bread because they had a much longer shelf-life.
These biscuits were so hard they prompted 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’.
Many soldiers ground these biscuits into a type of porridge to make them more palatable.
The mothers, wives and girlfriends of Australian troops back home must’ve got wind of the terrible Anzac tiles and were reportedly concerned that their boys were not getting enough nutrients. Knowing that oats were a food of high nutritional value, these women used the recipe for Scottish oatcakes as a base and developed what we now know as the Anzac biscuit.
Along with oats, the other ingredients – sugar, flour, coconut, butter, golden syrup and bi-carbonate of soda – were used because they would be able to withstand the long journey via ship that the biscuits had to make to reach the troops.
Eggs, a common binding agent in biscuits, were purposely not used because of the high likelihood that they would spoil before they reached Gallipoli or the Western Front.
RECIPE FOR TRADITIONAL ANZAC BISCUITS
- 1 1/4 cups plain flour, sifted
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup castor sugar
- 3/4 cup desiccated coconut
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup or treacle
- 150g unsalted butter, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
- Pre-heat oven to 170°C.
- Place the flour, oats, sugar and coconut in a large bowl and stir to combine.
- In a small saucepan place the golden syrup and butter and stir over low heat until the butter has fully melted.
- Mix the bicarbonate soda with 1 1/2 tablespoons water and add to the golden syrup mixture. It will bubble whilst you are stirring together so remove from the heat.
- Pour into the dry ingredients and mix together until fully combined.
- Roll tablespoonfuls of mixture into balls and place on baking trays lined with non stick baking paper, pressing down on the tops to flatten slightly.
- Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown.
Have a wonderful ANZAC Day, everybody!