They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
For the fallen by Laurence Binyon (1869–1943)
ANZAC Day commemorates not only the first landing of Australian and New Zealand troops or ANZACS at ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli on the 25th April 1914 but also honours service people who have served in all of our wars.
I didn’t really grow up with this sense that my family had served in the war even though my Great Uncle Jack had served in New Guinea in World War II and my grandfather had served as an Army Captain within Australia. Geoff, on the other hand, grew up with two uncles who had served in New Guinea and another who had served in Darwin and his Nanna who had lost a brother in France during World War I. Last year, we also found out that his father’s uncle had served at Gallipoli and went on to be part of the charge at Beersheba. So when it comes to ANZAC Day, our family has something personal and close to home to honour and respect. We have also seen the longer term impact of war on wives and children who experienced alcoholism, violence and depression. Not because they were bad men but because they had seen and experienced horrors that no one should experience and then they were simply sent home.
Geoff and I have been into the ANZAC Day march in the city only once but every year since I can remember, I have always watched the march on TV. In some respects, it is a solemn occasion where we remember and honour the dead but there is also so much to look at and I have always felt such a love and a fondness for the old men marching with their medals pinned to their hearts. I remember when these old men had been to WWI and slowly and surely they became the faces of World War II veterans and now even the Vietnam Veterans are looking well…old…and the WWI diggers have gone and WWII ones are thinning out.
Along with watching the march on TV, I have another time honoured tradition…making ANZAC Biscuits. Mothers, wives, girlfriends and anyone who cared, baked ANZAC Biscuits at home and sent them overseas to the men at the front. Such packages and letters from home were treasured, providing a much needed connection with their loved ones at home as well as breaking the monotony of military food.
Not unsurprisingly, making ANZAC Biscuits on ANZAC Day is as tradtional as the official Dawn Service and the march.
ANZAC Biscuits are really just an oatmeal biscuit and by modern standards are pretty plain. You can jazz them up with chopped nuts, ginger or even choc chips but for ANZAC Day, I always keep them plain and authentic. Their simplicity also serves to remind us of simpler times when austerity measures had been implemented, rationing had been in place and there wasn’t our modern over-abundance of just about everything. Things were scarce…even the basics like eggs.
Despite their simplicity, ANZAC Biscuits with their dose of thick, sticky, sugary golden syrup are scrumptious.
If you are a connoisseur of ANZAC Biscuits and as strange as it may seem, these people do exist, you need to specify whether you like your ANZACS soft or hard, very much the same way people get quite picky about having their fried egg: “sunny side up”.
Personally, I have had great difficulty mastering the perfect ANZAC. Most of the time, I find the mixture doesn’t come together well and I’ve needed to add extra butter to bind it together. Moreover, as I only really make ANZACS once maybe twice a year, I haven’t managed to perfect the process and work out quite what makes them crunchy or chewy. We just get what we get and usually because I’m baking them with the kids, I’m just thankful for that.
If you have read my blog before, you will know that most of my cooking efforts with the kids have their dramas and I must admit that I’ve had a good think about why we have the kitchen of chaos instead of something approaching the scientific wonder of the Australian Women’s Weekly Test Kitchen. I mean, you can be sure that most of our antics could never be replicated by anybody anywhere no matter how hard they tried.
As usual, baking ANZAC Biscuits failed to disappoint and we had our usual range of hiccups.
The first thing that you have to keep in mind when baking ANZAC Biscuits, especially if you like me want to bake them while watching the march, is that you need to check that you have all your ingredients the day before because the shops are shut on ANZAC Day until after lunch. This is a very important word of warning and despite my best efforts, I keep getting caught. This year, we are staying at my parents’ house at the beach and it is not very well stocked so I brought everything with me including the metal biscuit tray. However, I’d brought everything except the main ingredient…the oats…because I’d bought this wonderful metal tin put out by Uncle Toby’s specifically to house your big box of oats and to keep the nasties out. Thinking I had about a 12 month supply, much to my horror, I didn’t check my supplies. The tin was completely empty without so much as a single oat left inside. Some horrific porridge-guzzling Goldilocks and her three bears had been guzzling my oats. I scoured the cupboards optimistically. Dad has his very healthy whole grain oat porridge “stuff” which looks like oats on the outside but also has other grains mixed in and as tempted as I was to use this instead, Geoff and I both agreed it was a bit of a gamble. We were all looking forward to our annual ANZAC Day indulgence and we didn’t want a “fail”. We had to wait.
So we watched the march and while waiting for the shops to open, we took the dog off for a walk along the mud flats and the kids and I squirted Neptune’s Beads at each other and at ourselves and had a bit of fun. It had rained heavily overnight and it was still overcast so not terribly pretty but it was fun sloshing through the mud even if we didn’t see any crabs. Miss, I must say was thrilled about that. She doesn’t like crabs. She doesn’t like them at all and the mud flats down here start crawling as thousands of them emerge out of their holes at certain times of day which as yet I haven’t managed to pin down.
By the time Geoff returned from the shops and I’d had a bit of a nap, it was late afternoon by the time we were making the ANZACS and beforehand we quickly whizzed up our pizza dough for dinner and set it aside to rise.
It is always gets tricking making anything with the kids after making the pizza dough. The kids love getting their hands into the dough, squishing it through their fingers and really giving it a good workout. They can’t resist! However, dough is dough and I wasn’t happy seeing Miss with her hands in the bowl mixing the oats with the other dry ingredients. “Get your fingers out of there! That’s what spoons are for!!”
When it came to mixing the dry ingredients, which I’d thought was relatively simple, even this proved challenging to the kids and I could feel my patience getting very thin, very thin indeed. When you are pouring a cup full of flour as an adult, or at least an adult who has been cooking all of your life, you just know where that magic, unwritten line is on a cup that measures a cup full of something. It’s not ¾ of a cup and it’s not a cup full with some kind of mountain peak stuck on top of it either. It’s a full cup with something like a finger space left empty at the top so your supposedly full cup of whatever, doesn’t spill. I’m sure it is actually possible to pour a cup full of something without spilling it on the bench too but I’m not sure if I’ve even pulled this one off. We’re all a bit careless around here.
Besides getting pedantic about measurements which may or not matter in the overall scheme of things, kitchen safety became a serious issue when the kids were mucking around in the kitchen today. Consequently, we gave them more than a serious talking to especially about burns but also about knives. We told them that the kitchen is a workshop with dangerous tools and it needs to be respected. It is not a playground. The message wasn’t really sinking in so I opted for a bit of tough love and we looked up kids burns in Google went to images and showed them what some of these burns can look like. We also watched an educational presentation which you can link through to here: http://www.chw.edu.au/prof/services/burns_unit/burns_prevention/
I think that sank in although with kids you never know. I’d swear they have what my grandfather used to call “good forgettery” before his Alzheimer’s set in.
So after that very lengthy preamble, here is the recipe for ANZAC Biscuits. When we made it today, it produced a chewy, rather than crunchy biscuit and it was truly delicious!
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
2/3 cup castor sugar
¾ cup coconut
1/3 cup Golden Syrup (5.5 metric tablespoons- easier to measure!!)
1 teas bicarb soda
2 tablespoons hot water.
1) Preheat oven to 160° C (325° F)
2) Place the oats, flour, sugar and coconut in a medium-sized bowl and mix together with a large wooden or stirring spoon (ie not fingers!!!)
3) Take a small to medium saucepan. Measure out golden syrup using either a cup of measuring spoons. I actually have a series of cup measures and that’s ideal for measuring out the golden syrup. Being so thick and sticky, it’s not the easiest to measure out. Add butter. We always buy the 250g packets of butter for cooking and I have noticed that even when the kids do a relatively simple thing like cutting the butter in half, they usually push the knife through at a not insignificant angle which can significantly alter the quantity of butter. Of course, you can take more of a laissez-faire approach with the kids and have fun and it doesn’t matter how it turns out but that’s not teaching your kids how to cook. I do quite a lot of ad hoc cooking myself and rarely follow a recipe to a T but I have enough experience and instinct to be able to cook by feel. I generally know what the mixture is supposed to look like despite what the recipe says and will jiggle ingredients around until it looks right. That sounds like I am contradicting myself but it does make sense.
4) Place saucepan on the hotplate at a medium to high heat stirring occasionally. It doesn’t need to be watched closely but don’t walk away either. Depending on the age and capabilities of your kids, decide yourself whether to let them manage the hot aspects of the recipe.
5) While the butter and golden syrup are melting, you need to prepare the bicarb soda and water mix, which is what enables the biscuits to rise and I’ve always felt the way the melted butter and golden syrup mix rushes up like a volcano provides great entertainment. I remember my Mum introducing me to this mystery as a kid and I was in awe. It was absolutely fabulous.
6) Remove golden syrup and butter mix from the stove. Have the bowl of dry ingredients nearby and add the bi-carb soda and add water mix to the saucepan. This can really froth up and get quite excited so you might have to move quickly to avoid spills. This is a job for big hands or kids aged 12+ considering the hot, sugary fat involved.
7) Mix well. You might need to add extra butter to get the ingredients to mix together well. You don’t want the biscuits to be too greasy but the mixture also needs to hold together well without crumbling. We ended up grabbing handfuls of mixture and squishing it together a few times to shape flattened balls which stayed together. I don’t think I’ve had to do that with recipes I’ve made in the past but they had been more of a crunchy consistency where these biscuits were more chewy.
8) Cover a metal biscuit tray in non-stick baking paper. In the past I’ve placed spoonfuls of mixture onto the tray but with this recipe, I needed to squish the mixture together a bit for it to hold together. You need to leave a bit of space between each biscuit to allow for expansion.
9) Bake for 8-10 mins or until golden. Remove from oven. Leave on tray to cool down for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Simple and scrumptious and we can remember our fallen heroes as well!
Love & Blessings,