Sunday, April 26, 2009


We left the house as the imam began his call to prayer at a nearby mosque. The first vestiges of daylight were still somewhere below the horizon but the streets were already beginning to play host to very early morning joggers trying to beat the dry season heat and street vendors setting up their carts and road side stalls ready for the breakfast influx. The 25th of April is to Australians and New Zealanders, ANZAC Day, which marks the anniversary of the first major military action seen by Australian and New Zealand soldiers during World War 1. The 'action' took place at Gallipoli on the coast of Turkey. An allied force of ANZAC soldiers were sent out under the direction of Winston Churchill to sneak up the Gallipoli peninsula and 'capture' Istanbul. They landed believing they had the upper hand and the element of surprise only to be met by a ferocious ready Turkish Army who opened fire before the boys had even reached the sand. The ensuing carnage was horrific and the entire exercise quickly settled in to a bloody campaign that dragged on for months. News of the over 8000 Australian and 2700 New Zealand soldiers who lost their lives hit those at home hard. The brave and heroic actions of the ANZAC troups soon became the stuff of legend. The characteristics they showed; endurance, ingenuity, good humour, an fierce egalitarian nature and mateship have become a vital part of our then new nations identities.

ANZAC Day has been marked in New Zealand since news of the offensive hit our shores on the 30th of April 1915. The next year an official public holiday was declared and the 25th of April became known as ANZAC Day. The first dawn service was held in Albany Australia, the last piece of land the Aussie ANZACs would have seen as they left for war, by a Reverend White in 1923.
Now a days the tradition is marked in many of the countries around the world that Kiwis and Australians reside as well as at Gallipoli and in the village of Villers-Bretonneux which the ANZACS liberated in 1918.
In Phnom Penh the short dawn service was held at the residence of the Australian Ambassador (there is no New Zealand Embassy here) where wreaths were laid by both Aussie and Kiwi representatives, troups past and present were remembered, National anthems were sung and the ANZAC phrase 'Lest we forget' was repeated before a shotgun breakfast.
Another ANZAC tradition is the humble but very tasty ANZAC biscuit.

Wives and mothers of Aussie and Kiwi soldiers made these golden crunchy oat biscuits (cookies) -because they tended to survive the often long trip on a Merchant Navy ship without going overly stale- to send to their boys on the front line or in the trenches or whereever they may be to remind them of home and to let them know their loved ones were thinking of them. They became known as ANZAC biscuits, not to be confused with ANZAC tiles or wafers which were hard thin bread substitute served by the Army Mess, after the infamous landing at Gallipoli although the first recording of the association between the biscuits in the recipe below and the name ANZAC Biscuits wasn't until 1921 when they appeared in a Dunedin (NZ) church cookbook. There was an ANZAC reference as early as 1915 (again in the St Andrews Parish cookbook) but the recipe was for cake not biscuits.

Anyway Kiwis and Aussies alike know this recipe as ANZAC Biscuits...

ANZAC Biscuits

1 Cup All-Purpose Flour

1 Cup Granulated Sugar

1 Cup Rolled Oats

1 Cup Coconut (optional)

1/2 Cup Melted Butter or Margarine

2 Tbsp. Golden Syrup (for those of us not in NZ or Australia you could use honey)

1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

1/4 Cup Boiling Water

1) Stir together the flour, sugar, oats and coconut in a large mixing bowl. Create a well in the center.
2) Add the melted Butter (Margarine) into the well.
3) Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda into the boiling water and add to the well. Mix.
4) Drop spoonfuls onto greased baking sheets.
5) Heat in a 350F (180C) oven for about 8-10 minutes. Store in an airtight container. For a crunchier biscuit just add a little more golden syrup.

Note the combination of the bicarb of soda and the golden syrup makes 'hokey pokey' another famous New Zealand taste sensation!

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