23 April 2015

ANZAC Biscuits: a recipe for remembrance


 
ANZAC biscuits were probably one of the very first recipes I made with my mum, when I was very little. My mum had learnt the recipe from her mother who had, in turn, learnt the recipe from her mother. During World War I, my great grandmother made these biscuits and sent them to her brothers who served overseas with the Australian Army during World War I, like so many other Australian mothers, wives, girlfriends and sisters. My paternal grandmother also used to make them regularly too - ever since the 1940s when she would prepare the biscuits and send them to my grandfather, while he was serving overseas in the Australian Army during World War II. The recipes from either side of my family are fairly similar, the only difference bring the addition of some desiccated coconut by my Grandmother.

My grandfather who served in the Australian Army during WWII

 

For me, this is a recipe for remembrance. Remembrance of my great uncles who fought and died in the fields of France during World War I - never returning home to Australia. Since my paternal grandfather passed away, I also like to make these biscuits every ANZAC day on 25 April to remember him and the friends he served with. While he was alive, my grandfather often used to march in the ANZAC day parades in Sydney - and every year I would go along and watch him march and meet the friends he had served with. As a little girl, I can remember watching him carefully take his medals out of an old cigar box that he had bought home from one of his postings in the Middle East, and carefully pin the medals onto his suit.

 

A photograph of my grandparents, taken on the day the became engaged, my grandfather with camera in hand.

 

After my grandfather passed away, I continued the tradition for him - attending the ANZAC day parades in Sydney and catching up with the few of his friends who could still attend. Sadly, they have all passed away now.

I owe a huge personal debt to my grandfather and his friends. A debt, not only for their service during World War II - but also because attending the ANZAC day parades with them gave me a first hand education in respect of this unique part of Australian history and identity. This education also led me to my current career, which I love. It was also my grandfather who, a photographer himself, encouraged and inspired my passion for art and photography.

During his WW2 service in the Middle East, my grandfather had taken his camera and sent the photos home with messages, as postcards to my grandmother. As a child, I was fascinated by these his photos and stories and would sit with him, going through boxes of the photos for hours - asking him endless questions. He did not have any photos of his service in New Guinea and his three years there were not spoken about much. Even as a child, I could feel the sensitivity there. The subject was a no-go zone. While at the ANZAC day marches with my grandfather, I also took photos and created some sketches of the friends and diggers marching with him at the parades, one of which was exhibited at the Art Gallery of NSW.

The other reason why I keep the tradition of making ANZAC biscuits on the 25 April is to remember the very significant role that women played on the home front during World War I and II, living through years of worry and anxiety about their loved ones overseas.

 

 

 

But more about the biscuits themselves, ANZAC biscuits where created during World War I, by the wives, mothers, sisters and girlfriends of Australian soldiers as a replacement for the "tile" biscuits the soldiers were provided with in their rations. The "tile" biscuits, as they were called, were included in rations instead of bread because they had a much longer shelf-life. The biscuits were only edible if they were soaked in tea or some sort of liquid and some soldiers would grate them down to make a sort of porridge.

 

 

My great uncles, who served during WWI. Only one of whom returned home.

 

 

Whether it was in the letters home, about the inedible ration biscuits, or women on the home front were concerned about their boys not getting enough nutrients - the ANZAC biscuit was born. Made from rolled oats, sugar, plain flour, coconut, butter, golden syrup or treacle, bi-carbonate of soda and boiling water, these biscuits did not readily spoil and could be transported on the two month sea voyage by the Merchant Navy, to those who were serving. Importantly, ANZAC biscuits contain no eggs - and whether this was as a result of them being scarce due to rationing or whether it was because they would cause the biscuits to spoil remains a point of conjecture. But in any event, there are no eggs in an ANZAC biscuit.

 

My grandfather at Tel Aviv during R&R

My great grandmother's recipe for ANZAC Biscuits

This recipe is in imperial measurements as my grandmother had recorded it before the change to metric!

Ingredients

2 cups of rolled oats

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup plain flour

4oz. butter, melted

1 tbls golden syrup

2 tbls boiling water

1&1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda

(Variation: you can reduce the rolled oats to 1 cup and replace with 1 cup of desiccated coconut - as my paternal grandmother did. If you want a sweeter biscuit, you can also increase the sugar to 1 cup).

Method

1. Preheat oven to low-moderate heat. Combine dry ingredients: rolled oats, sifted flour, sugar - and coconut, if using.

2. Using a small pan, melt the butter and add the golden syrup to combine. Remove from the heat.

3. In a separate bowl, mix the soda with the boiling water. Then add to the golden syrup mixture - which will become very frothy.

4. Combine the golden syrup mixture and dry ingredients.

5. Drop teaspoons of mixture onto a floured tray, allowing room for spreading. Bake in a slow oven for around 20 minutes. Allow biscuits to cool on trays.

21 April 2015

Greek style cheesecake with petimezi syrup (Γλυκιά μυζηθρόπιτα)



The end of Lent calls for a little dairy indulgence. This Greek style cheesecake called a 'myzithropita' (μυζηθρόπιτα) is the perfect way to indulge after abstaing from dairy and eggs for over 40 days. Best of all, it contains very little added sugar and is not overly sweet - so it doesn't leave you feeling too guilty if you happen to have a second slice!


19 April 2015

At look back at Greek Easter '15




Easter is the most important celebration for my Greek family. It just inches ahead of Christmas and it holds a very special place in my heart. I love the traditions of colourful dyed eggs, tsoureki, the Easter biscuits - Koulourakia, spit-roast of lamb and the "lambathes" decorated candles. The Easter rituals of the Orthodox Church are rich and spiritual. Even though it falls during the start of Autumn in Australia, there is still that feeling of energy and renewal that often comes with the start of spring.

6 April 2015

In my kitchen April '15




Καλό μήνα lovely readers and welcome to April!! If you are wondering what Καλό μήνα (Kalo Mina) means - it literally means "good month" and it is a Greek greeting given every first day of each month. It is the Greek way of wishing friends and family a good month ahead of them - a way of wishing you, lovely reader, well.


3 April 2015

Ma's kalamari yemista: calamari stuffed with leeks, currants and pine nuts (καλαμαράκια γεμιστά)





When I first got married, I was fascinated by the way my mother in law expertly cleaned calamari. Nearly five years on, nothing has changed. Where Ma may use a toothbrush to painstakingly clean fish for her family, she often uses a knitting needle to ensure the inside of the calamari tube is immaculately clean. Having grown up on a Greek island, her skill in cooking all types of seafood and her knowledge of how it should be treated and used is truly impressive. Ma's "salty" island blood and passion for seafood has been passed on to her children - certainly my Mr K, so it was early in my marriage that I got to grips with cleaning calamari and octopus - and selecting it at the market. 

29 March 2015

"Fix Hellas" beer battered salt cod, basil infused skordalia and beetroot salad for Greek National Independence Day (Μπακαλιάρος για την 25η Μαρτίου)




In our house this week, we celebrated Greek National Independence Day. In Greece, 25 March is a public holiday, but people of Greek heritage all over the world celebrate the origin in of the modern Greek state, which had its beginnings on 25 March 1821.


20 March 2015

Lenten salad with quinoa & pomegranate (Σαλάτα με ρόδι και κινόα για τη νηστεία)

 

 

Autumn makes herself known when the soft orange-pink pomegranates start to appear on my father in law's trees, like spectacular Christmas ornaments. It marks the start of one of my favourite seasons and always reminds me that my wedding anniversary is not too far away. I can always remember my dad and my father in law enjoying a very happy, animated conversation and a Greek coffee in the garden with an impressive backdrop of pomegranate trees, that were simply heaving with fruit, behind them on the day after our wedding. My father in law took cuttings from his trees and now they grow in my parents garden - and this is the first year that the new trees have produced a very generous and healthy quantity of fruit that is filled with sweet ruby coloured gems.

3 March 2015

In my kitchen: March

 

In my kitchen this month, I am enjoying the rich bounty of late summer produce – tomatoes, zucchinis and eggplants from the garden. I am also very excited to be welcoming into my kitchen, over the coming weeks some spectacular autumn produce – figs, pomegranates, chestnuts and more! Thankfully, there are so many wonderful fruits and vegetables in season at the moment, as over the next few weeks the menus in my kitchen are going to be fasting friendly.

1 March 2015

Lenten Onion Pie (κρεμμύδoπίτα νηστεία)

 

 

While Greek food is so much about the seasons and homegrown produce, it is also driven by the festival calendar. We recently started one of the most significant fasting periods in the Greek calendar, Great Lent.

 

This period is called nistia (νηστεία) and traditionally requires you to abstain from meat, eggs, dairy, fish (shellfish are ok), olive oil and alcohol. You are also required to limit the number of meals consumed each day. In recent times, many people do not fast for the whole period of lent (Clean Monday until Easter Sunday) but they do still fast in different ways. For many people, they will not eat meat for the entire period of lent but will still eat dairy. For others, they will not eat meat for the entire period of lent and will also be completely vegan, oil and alcohol free on Wednesdays and Fridays - which are regarded as significant fasting days in the Orthodox calendar year. In addition to this, most people fast strictly during the first and last week of Lent as well as Holy Week, breaking the fast after midnight on Easter Saturday with bowls of mageritsa soup.

25 February 2015

Wild summer greens: Quick skordalia with purslane & horta style warrigal greens

 

 

 

My love for wild greens has not abated this summer. My first love, the sweet green summer vlita (βλήτα), had to vie for attention as my affection for crispy lemony purslane has grown. We have enjoyed purslane slowly braised along with zucchini and vlita in a spicy tomato sauce, as well as a variety of salads - from simple tomato and olive - to a really fresh and punchy traditional Lebanese fattoush, the recipe courtesy of my gorgeous friend, Mama Z. I hope to share the recipe for fattoush with you soon, before the purslane of summer disappears. However, this week I needed a starchy hit - but I had a basket absolutely brimming with freshly picked purslane. The solution - a quick skordalia with purslane (σκορδαλιά με αντράκλα).

 

14 February 2015

Yemista Politika (Γεμιστές Πολιτικά)

 

 

 

Ask any Greek child, what is their favourite dish and I am sure many would answer yemista – a dish of stuffed tomatoes and sometimes eggplant, zucchini or zucchini blossoms and capsicums that are baked in the oven. A childhood love of yemista never fades. The other day Mr K was reminiscing about how the capsicums were always his favourite and he would carefully select them from the big ‘tapsi’ containing the colourful yemista.

 

13 January 2015

Stuffed zucchini flowers with rice, mint & fennel pollen (Λουλούδια κολοκυθιάς γεμιστά)

Like many food bloggers, I am often asked, why do you have a blog? Why do you write about food? Why is it all about Greek food? The simple answer is, when your Greek father in law gives you a dazzling basket of freshly picked, home grown zucchini blossoms – you need to know what to do with them. So much love and hard work goes into home grown produce and I want to be able to treat it with the respect it deserves.