Anzac Biscuits and a Gunfire Breakfast

For today I am stepping out of the normally light tone that my blog posts have. When I think about the loss of life in any form, I cannot adopt a light hearted tone. If you are not up for a more serious post then you may not enjoy reading this.

I’ve shared a little of this booklet with you throughout the post, it’s actually from WWII not WWI. It was published in 1940. I do think though it serves as a reminder of a different and much harder time and gives pause for thought. I found it tucked in among my vintage recipe books.

Anzac Day is a commemorative day marked in Australia and New Zealand on the anniversary of the day that the ANZACs (Australia New Zealand Army Corps) landed at Gallipoli in Turkey in World War I. There were other forces present also, the ANZACs were not the only ones to suffer huge causalities. In total there were 252,000 men that were wounded or killed on the allied forces side. The Turks lost in excess of 80 thousand men. Anzac day has more recently been a focus for reflection on the futility of war.

Adieu, the years are a broken song, And the right grows weak in the strife with wrong, The lilies of love have a crimson stain, And the old days will never come again.

This is from the diary of an Australian soldier.

The youngest soldier to die at Gallipoli was was Private No. 1553, 21st Battalion, James MARTIN. He was 14.

Only 14 years old - just a child. My oldest son at 14 was at high school and playing hockey, not sitting in a muddy trench surrounded by gunfire. On 25th of April we wear poppies and commemorate the day with a dawn service to remember those men that never returned from so far away. They died in horrible situations and far away from people that loved them.
Many of them never knew what they were getting into and saw it as a chance to travel.

What does this all have to do with biscuits you ask. The women that were left behind and had limited supplies to cook with were concerned about their husbands, fathers, sons and loved ones, and wanted to send them something nutritious and to remind them of home. They must have felt so helpless being so far away, having those they loved in danger and not being able to do a thing about it. Soldiers Biscuits, later renamed Anzac
were the result. Sent off to the troops, a little taste of home from half a world away.

The same thing happened in WWII, those left behind were asked to support their soldiers. My father remembers women sitting around in the living room a couple of times a week all knitting like crazy for the soldiers - with piles of wool and brown paper packages all over the floor - doing their bit for the men that were far away.

I’ve given a recipe for the standard Anzac biscuit before, but this is a variation that is more chunky, fruity and chocolate backed. A modern interpretation of the classic cookie. This recipe comes from my favourite coffee stop and purveyor of fabulous cakes and cookies Everyday Gourmet. No photo today. It just seemed trivial really considering the topic. But I assure you they are wonderful.

Fruity Anzac Biscuits

  • 3/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds
  • 2 rounded cups of rolled oats
  • 2 flat cups of coconut
  • 1 cup raw sugar
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 flat cup of white flour
  • 180 gms dried apricots - finely chopped
  • 285g butter
  • 170 g golden syrup
  • 60 mls boiling water
  • 2 tspn baking soda.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large pan ( a roasting dish is a good size) Heat the butter and golden syrup until boiling.

Remove from heat

Add boiling water and baking soda to the butter and golden syrup

As the mix bubbles and expands add to the dry ingredients and mix well

Each Anzac biscuit needs to be hand moulded to roughly 8cm in diameter.
Place on a baking try lined with parchment and bake for 10 minutes at 180C/350F. Serve plain or paint the backs with melted chocolate if you prefer.

What is a gunfire breakfast?: Normally in darkness the soldiers would have had something cold to eat or coffee laced with rum and perhaps a spoonful of condensed milk. Eaten to the sound of gunfire starting in the trenches as the sun came up. Later on an Anzac biscuit may have been an option.

I plan on having an Anzac biscuit on the 25th and taking some time to think about the things that the men and their families had to endure.
For those of you with family currently serving in armed forces, and to those of you that have lost people that you loved, I will be thinking of you and your families also. As someone that has lost a son, my heart goes out to any of you that have been through the same heart wrenching loss.

"Lest we forget"