OK, so this post is a few weeks late! It was Anzac Day in Australia a few weeks ago. For those of you in other countries, this is a national holiday and day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand where we celebrate and honor the contribution made to our great countries by the soldiers in World War One when they landed in Gallipoli. It now also commemorates the efforts in World War Two. I always get a bit choked up at the service; and have proudly watched my grandparents march in the parade with their medals on more than one occasion. It is a special day of pride, gratitude and reflection for most Australians and New Zealanders, as the “Anzac legend” has had a significant impact on defining the identity of both nations. My grandparents have all passed away. But we continue to celebrate their experiences, and the impact those have had on our past and our future.
One delicious way to commemorate Anzac Day is in the kitchen, by baking up a huge batch of Anzac biscuits! Anzac biscuits (or gluten free oat cookies, as they are called in The United States) are traditional sweet baked treats made in Australia and New Zealand using rolled oats, flour, coconut, sugar, butter, golden syrup, baking soda and boiling water. They are scrumptious, really easy to make, inexpensive; and are part of the baking repertoire of every self-respecting Aussie.
The origin of these biscuits is a subject of some debate. The most commonly accepted story is that they were sweet treats made by army wives to send to their husbands at war, as they needed to make something that would survive the long journey to Europe. Another story, that has survived, is that they were made in the trenches by soldiers utilizing the limited provisions they had. Either way, they have become one of those iconic Australian foods; and unlike Vegemite, can be happily enjoyed by everyone the world over!
The recipe for these gluten free cookies is fairly standard. Some recipes are a bit more exotic and contain LSA and nuts. But typically people stick to the basic traditional recipe, which is pretty delicious. These cookies really give weight to the adage that the simple things in life are the best. This year, my old mate Pete gets the remembrance and credit for inspiring my gluten free adaptation of the tried and tested wheat-inspired Anzac biscuit. Pete was Lyn’s husband (from the broccoli salad post); and was like my second father. I was remembering the phenomenal Anzac biscuits that he used to make as I got uncommonly nostalgic for old-fashioned, traditional Australian culinary “delights”. I say “uncommonly” only because I very rarely indulge in such treats because they are filled with gluten, dairy and sugar, and usually make me sick! But my mouth just waters thinking about Pete’s Anzac biscuits. To decline one would simple be “un-Australian”! Delicious little toxic treats they were! You know the kind? “Oh so good” going down, and “not so good” coming back up!
Pete and I were known on more than one occasion to polish off a whole batch of Anzac biscuits in one afternoon as we quietly solved the problems of the world over a lazy game of cards. He would smugly grin as he looked over me saying, “You made light work of those didn’t you veggie head!” I would sheepishly nod as I surreptitiously grabbed for yet another taste of sugar-filled heaven that I knew would make me sick!
I have modified Pete’s Anzac biscuit recipe to make it a little more forgiving. I used rice flour, coconut sugar, and maple syrup instead of brown sugar, golden syrup and wheat flour. I have still used butter -- you really need it for the depth of flavor. But you could always use vegan butter in order to make these dairy free. But you could use another natural granulated sugar of your choice if you can’t source coconut sugar. My friend Kris put me onto coconut sugar a while ago, and have to say, "I am in love!" This nutritionally dense sweetener made from coconut palm blossoms is low GI, and has a rich toffee-like flavor that makes if perfect for replicating the quality of the golden syrup in this recipe.
These gluten free Anzac biscuits are nothing short of spectacular. Cook them for exactly 20 minutes and take them out of the oven (they will still be soft) and allow them to solidify at room temperature. Then they will be crunchy on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside. “Bloody Beeyutiful” as Pete would say. These cookies are a bit more naughty than most of my other recipes. But I am posting these to commemorate the sixth anniversary of Pete’s death this week.
Pete – I love you, and miss our talks every day.