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!
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).
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.