On july 28th 1914, the Great War Began. Shortly after, and merely at the infancy of their fealty to the British Empire (Australia had been under British rule for only 13 years, and New Zealand only 7), young New Zealanders and Australians were up-rooted from their humble existences and shipped across to the other side of, what was then, a much wider world than we currently walk. They were then conscripted into the service of a king who would never even set foot in either of his young, new countries, and charged with the task of defending places they had likely never heard of from a faceless enemy, from other places they had likely never heard of.
And so on our day of remembrance, the 25th of April, 101 years ago, a wave of Aussie and kiwi fighters, fresh from whatever farm or factory they had been whisked away from by war, crashed onto the shores of the Gallipoli Peninsula with the goal of capturing Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire and thus forcing Germany’s main allies out of the war. They failed. What had been planned as a fast hard strike at the heart of the enemy quickly became a stalemate in the face of heavy resistance from the Ottoman forces. For a gruelling 8 months over 11,000 of our countrymen bled and died in the mud, until finally allied forces were evacuated from the area.
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
The Gallipoli campaign may have failed to achieve military success, and yet it succeeded in a much more profound way. News of the landing at Gallipoli reached home and planted the seed of camaraderie between our burgeoning nations, and through the dank cloud of adversity the enduring spirit of brotherhood began to flourish. April 25th a focal point in history on which to hang the proverbial hat of ANZAC pride, a symbol that has now been expanded to encompass the memories of all those fellow countrymen who have served and fallen in the following conflicts. Officially ANZAC stands for Australian, New Zealand Armed Corps, but to these two antipodean nations it serves as a banner of national pride and is a symbol of the strong bond we have shared for over a century.
The legend of the ANZAC biscuit tells us that the recipe for this simple confection arose from necessity. During the war, families back home would put together care packages to send to their loves ones in the hopes that a little home cooking might be able to lift the spirits of those poor souls stuck in the trenches so far away. Due to the distance these packages would have to travel, and the time it would take to reach its destination, any perishable goods were obviously well spoilt long before they could be enjoyed. And so the true spirit of Kiwi and Aussie ingenuity came to the rescue. You’ll notice that this biscuit recipe has no milk and certainly no eggs in it. This allowed the crispy little discs of joy to survive the long sea voyage to its intended, and ensure that those mouthfuls of home arrived in prime condition.
The name Anzac is fiercely protected by law in both New Zealand and Australia, and cannot be used without the express permission of the Governor General in NZ, and the Minister of Veterans Affairs in Australia. General exemptions are granted to Anzac biscuits however, as long as the sacred recipe is reproduced faithfully and always sold, and referred to as Anzac biscuits, and never as cookies! This restriction saw sandwich giant Subway drop Anzac biscuits from their menus in September 2008 after the Department of Veterans Affairs ordered the chain to bake the biscuits to The original recipe. After deciding it was not commercially viable to produce the all hallowed biscuit of our nations faithfully, the confection was dropped, not to be reinstated to this very day.
Now serving this tradition means there is not a hell of a lot I can do to tamper with this century old favourite, sometimes as a chef you just have to recognize when things are just better left how they were meant to be. In fact have lifted the basic recipe straight form that trusty tome of culinary knowledge, the most ANZAC cookbook there is, the Edmonds ‘sure to rise’ Cookery Book. So I took another route with this one and have attempted to expand the humble Anzac Biscuit (not cookie!) into a dessert. I have stayed true to the original recipe with the small addition of macadamia nuts, and tinkered with a few of the components to make new components. So this is in essence what wankers refer to as a “deconstructed” dessert. Enjoy.
Oat and Vanilla Porridge Puree
- 70g oats (toasted)
- 450g whole milk
- 1 pinch of salt
- 25g sugar
- ½ vanilla pod scraped into the milk
Lightly toast your oats in a dry fry pan on the stove and then combine all the ingredients into a medium pot. Bring to the boil. And then simmer for 10 minutes or until the Oats are thoroughly cooked. Remove the vanilla pod and blend while still hot. Add more milk to achieve a custardy consistency if required. Pass through a fine sieve and reserve until needed.
- 75g oats
- 70g flour
- 85g sugar
- 70g desiccated coconut
- 50g of unsalted butter
- 30g golden syrup
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 2 Tbsp boiling water
Pre-heat your oven to 180ºc. Combine your dry ingredients except your baking soda in a large bowl. Melt the butter with the golden syrup in a pot. Mix the baking soda with 2 table spoons of boiling water and then combine with the butter mix and stir through. Combine the wet mix with your dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Line a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper and scoop a table spoon of mix into the palm of your hand, squeeze into ball and place on the baking tray about 5cm apart. Flatten the balls out slightly and bung it in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
- 100g sugar
- 30g water
- 60g macadamia nuts
Line a chopping board with baking paper. Roughly smash your macadamia nuts in a mortar and pestle into smaller chunks, careful not beat it too much or it will turn to butter. Combine the water and sugar in a small pot and bring to the boil. Continue to boil until the mix turns an amber colour then remove from the heat and dump in your nuts. Stir in quickly and then pour onto the baking paper and spread thinly. Wait until cold and set, then break into large shards.
- 3 Anzac biscuits
- 1 shard of praline
- 1 Tbsp toasted coconut
- 1 Tbsp porridge puree
- 2 Scoops of coconut ice cream
- A random assortment of edible flowers
Smear your puree across the bottom of the plate with the back of your spoon and then crumble one of your biscuits diagonally across the line you just made. Lay a shard of praline across the crumble and then another biscuit along side it. Put one scoop of the ice cream on top of your biscuit and then put the other biscuit leaning on the side of the ice cream. Pour the toasted coconut down the other side of the ice cream and onto the plate. Place another, smaller ball of ice cream on the other side of the plate and then sprinkle the plate with your chosen flowers (optional) and I added a few Thai Basil leaves, definitely not traditional or sanctioned by the Australian government, but it added a really nice liquorice note to the dish. Serve with a nice hot cup of bell tea and then hop into your best doona for a moe (pronounced moy, the maori word for sleep), Cracka!