Friday, 24 April 2015

Lest We Forget - April 2015

                                                    Sydney Cenotaph, Martin Place

28 July 1914 - Austria-Hungary declare war on Serbia and in enters Russia to support the Serbs. Germany invades neutral Belgium and Luxembourg then advances towards France, so Britain declares war on Germany. News of the conflict between Europe's major economic powers quickly spreads across the globe and suddenly the world is at war.

Young, fit Australians and New Zealanders eager to participate in what they perceive to be a great adventure, one believed to be over by Christmas, follow Britain into the great global fight that changed the world forever. Thus, at dawn on 25 April 1915, Australian and New Zealand troops landed ashore Gallipoli and it was during the eight-month-long hellish, bloody battle where the ANZAC spirit was born. For despite fighting a losing "campaign" thanks to poor positioning on unforgiving terrain and confusion due to unpredictable circumstances then having to cope with the indiscriminate carnage, horrific tragedies and immense losses, the ANZACs persevered.

Interestingly, the acronym ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) was first created in 1915 when Australian and New Zealand soldiers were training in Egypt however, it is specifically associated with the Gallipoli landing.

Needless to say, an emotional day is upon all Australians and New Zealanders this Saturday as we mark the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces in one of the largest and deadliest conflicts in history – World War I. It is on this day we remember all those who served and sacrificed their lives not only in the Great War but in all conflicts past and present and proudly honour their endurance, mateship and incredible courage - qualities that are at the very core of who we are.

Back home during the war, Australian women - wives, mothers and girlfriends of the men in combat were concerned about the quality and nutritional content of the food being supplied to the soldiers based on the information flowing to them via the letters from Gallipoli. Quantity of food was limited as was variety and the conditions were absolutely appalling with flies swarming all over their meagre food provisions. The women had to bear in mind all food sent to the troops via navy ships, which had no refrigerated facilities, had to remain fresh and edible for periods in excess of two months. As such, bread was out. 

So, a group of women created a bread substitute - a biscuit which was nutritious and would not easily spoil. The original biscuits given to the soldiers in Gallipoli and later on the Western Front called "ANZAC tiles" or "wafers" because they were actually very hard to endure the long journey abroad, were made with ingredients that were readily available -rolled oats, flour, sugar, butter, golden syrup, bicarbonate of soda and boiling water. Coconut was later added to the mix. Golden syrup instead of eggs was used to bind the mixture together because eggs were scarce during the war as most poultry farmers had joined the services. What's more, without the eggs, the biscuits had a long shelf life.

Although the biscuits were not as popular in World War II as a result of refrigeration on so many naval ships which now made it possible to send a greater variety of food, in keeping with the tradition, we still bake ANZAC biscuits for ANZAC day to commemorate the occasion.

Inspired by the original recipe, I baked my own cookies using my sister-in-law's healthier version:

Makes 16

2 cups almond meal
1 cup mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, linseed & sesame)
1 cup shredded coconut
2 tablespoons of honey
2 tablespoons of organic maple syrup
1/2 cup macadamia oil

1 tablespoon of cinnamon
pinch of ground vanilla
1/2 teaspoon of  bicarbonate of soda

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl
Roll the mixture into small balls and press down onto a baking tray (lined with baking paper)
Bake in a preheated oven at 120 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden.

Eat up and on the ANZAC Centenary remember all the brave ones who served, suffered and sacrificed for their mates, for our country, for freedom.

"At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them." -  The Ode from For the Fallen, a poem by Laurence Binyon