“There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this county of ours”
-Part of the inscription to the ‘heroes who lost their lives’ on the memorial erected by Atatürk at Anzac Cove
Like the oatcakes of my previous post, the slow digestion of the oats in these biscuits would have made them popular with soldiers on active service needing to sustain their energy. In the case of Anzac biscuits we might be talking of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers fighting in WWI at Gallipoli (ANZAC is an acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps).
Unfortunately the truth (discovered at the National Army Museum) is rather more mundane, most of the biscuits never got anywhere near the soldiers’ gullets but instead sold at fêtes held to raise money for the war effort.
The biscuits are still popular, and in particular are often eaten on Anzac day, 25 April, in remembrance of the soldiers’ bravery. A memorial biscuit-eating session is especially appropriate today, the centenary of the initiation of this campaign.
But it’s not only those soldiers that should be remembered. There are always two sides to everything. A few days ago I flew to Istanbul, where the Gallipoli Campaign is known as the Battle of Çanakkale. Sitting behind me on the plane was a group of xenophobic journalists. The talk was all about the allies and their courage. Their boisterous bigotry as they swarmed down the gangways onto Turkish territory began to make me feel uncomfortable. As Oliver Hawkins comments in a letter to The Times, Atatürk’s memorial (see the quote at the top of this post) “is surely one of the most gracious gestures of reconciliation of modern times”.
You can make a wonderful lemon, honey and camomile shoofly pie with an anzac biscuit crust – go to the excellent Twigg Studios blog to see how.
Recipe for Anzac biscuits
Makes about thirty
- 140g/1 cup of plain flour
- 200g/1 cup golden caster sugar
- 80g/1 cup desiccated coconut (some recipes stipulate the same quantity of desiccated coconut as rolled oats, but whilst coconut has a nice bite-y texture and vanilla-y taste you don’t want to go over the top with it)
- 200g/2 cups rolled oats
- 125g/8 oz/ half a brick of butter
- 2 tbsp golden syrup or maple syrup
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda dissolved in an egg cup with boiled water
- Heat the oven to 180ºC.
- Use silicon paper to line a couple of baking trays.
- In a big mixing bowl mix the flour, sugar, coconut and oats.
- Melt the butter and syrup in a small saucepan.
- Make a dip in the middle of the dry ingredients.
- Pour into it the butter, syrup and baking soda.
- Roll into balls, press down on the baking trays allowing room for expansion between biscuits
- Bake for a maximum of a quarter of an hour – they should be golden but not firm as they harden as they cool and you want them to remain a little moist and gooey.
- Cool on wire racks.
There’s a song about the Gallipoli, or the Dardanelles, campaign as it was also known by the Fureys and Davey Arthur. And there’s also an excellent film about two Australian sprinters who are sent to fight in the campaign. See clip below (apologies for the quality).
The soundtrack of the film includes the bitter-sweet adagio in g minor by Albinoni. Buy an album with this music on it, on it which is also likely to have the uplifting Pachelbel: Canon to listen to as you bake.