Anyone who knows me may have wondered why I haven't done an
Australian recipe, Australia being the love of my life and all. Well,
there are a couple of reasons. First, one of the things that makes
dining in Oz so desirable is the wide diversity of ethnic cuisines.
From post-World War II European immigration to the more recent influx
from the "Near North" (what we call the Far East), the country has been
supplied with an astonishing array of cultures, all contributing to the
country's dining tendencies. At road houses 500 miles from the nearest
town you can get dim sum, and at refueling stops in the remotest
corners of the Outback, you can pick up a can of Panang curry or a bar
of bittersweet Toblerone chocolate. However, if one is dining on
Vietnamese food in Canberra, Greek food in Melbourne, or Malaysian food
in Perth, you can't really call it Australian cuisine.
Second, and even more significantly, is the fact that the great stuff
that is indigenous to Australia generally isn't available here, or is
mighty expensive. Australia is surrounded by water, so seafood is
luxuriantly available and usually reasonably priced. There are King
prawns and Tiger prawns (5 or 6 inches long), Balmain bugs and Morton
Bay bugs (an indigenous crustacean that is something like a small,
flattened lobster), numerous varieties of crab, rock lobsters (called
crayfish in Australia), and a vast array of delicious fish: John Dory,
Whiting, Snapper, Baramundi, and more.
And then there is the lamb—it's cheap and abundant in Australia
(even served as bargain lunches in the pubs), but costly here in the US
(and not always as good). There are also a lot of fun fruits,
especially in the tropical north, though some, at least, are now
available in the US. However, there are mangoes, custard apples, and
sugar bananas there that I've never seen here, as well as varieties of
melon and pumpkin. Also, the Queensland nut, now grown in Hawaii, where
it is called a macadamia nut, is indigenous to and abundant in tropical
Queensland, and therefore is more readily available.
Another thing people may have wondered is that, since this is Mensa,
why haven't I done anything sweet. So this month, in one recipe, I put
all to rights, and give you a sweet treat from Australia—Anzac
"Biscuit" is Australian (and British) for what Americans call a cookie.
Anzac (or, more properly, ANZAC) is an acronym for Australia New
Zealand Army Corps. The corps, which served with distinction in World
War I, is probably best known for its heroic service during the bloody
Gallipoli Peninsula campaign. (A glimpse of this ill-fated campaign can
be had in the wonderful, devastating Australian movie Gallipoli,
which stars a very young Mel Gibson.) Though the fighting was vicious
and very costly for the ANZACs, the Turks came to admire the heroism
and high spirits of the corps, and called them the New Spartans.
The ANZAC infantry units were then sent on to France, where they
participated in some of the most brutal battles of the war. Because
Britain, at the time, had a pretty low opinion of the inhabitants of
the antipodes (all those transported criminals, you know), they tended
to think of them as cannon fodder, and as a result, Australia and New
Zealand (still considered a single political unit at the time) had the
highest casualty rate of any country in the war—69 percent. The
ANZAC cavalry units were sent to the Middle East, and their heroic and
astonishing feats can be relished in the Australian movie The Light
Horsemen. (This movie is a lot less grim than Gallipoli,
especially since the ANZACs won their battle in the Middle East. And
it's great if you love horses.)
When Australian and New Zealand forces were separated in 1917, ANZAC
ceased to be an official designation, but the name lives on in ANZAC
day—April 25, the date of the Gallipoli landing—when both
Australia and New Zealand commemorate the dead of the two World Wars.
So, what, you may be wondering, do all these soldiers and horsemen
and horrible battles have to do with cookies? Well, as with the US's
involvement in the World Wars, people back home got involved, too. This
consisted of everything from Victory Gardens to women working in
munitions and aviation to simply giving up a lot of luxuries so that
the soldiers could be supplied. As in the US, so, too, in Australia and
New Zealand, eggs were considered good things to send to soldiers, so
people developed recipes that didn't require eggs. ANZAC biscuits date
to that era. However, these are such incredibly delicious, luxuriously
rich cookies, you'll have trouble believing that they represent a time
or hardship and privation.
One note regarding measurements: I got this recipe in Australia,
which means that it used a mix of British Imperial measure and European
metric. I've translated it into American standard measure, but thought
you'd wonder why some measures are a little inexact. For example, one
cup Imperial is 10 ounces, while in American it's 8 ounces, and
tablespoons are the tiniest bit bigger in Imperial measure. However,
being off one way or the other by a couple of shreds of coconut or
drops of golden syrup won't really make a difference.
Anyway, these are among the most delicious cookies on earth. Enjoy.
1¼ cups rolled oats
1¼ cups plain flour
1¼ cups brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup shredded coconut (or a pinch less)
one stick butter (125 grams, to be exact, so a smidge more than one
2 slightly overflowing Tbs. Lyle's Golden Syrup (available in the
baking section of most stores)
1 tsp. baking soda
3 Tbs. boiling water
Combine oats, flour, sugar, and coconut, blending
thoroughly. In a small saucepan, combine butter with golden syrup, melt
over low heat, and remove from heat. Add baking soda to the boiling
water, then add this to the butter/syrup mixture. Make a well in the
center of the dry ingredients and stir in the liquid. Mix thoroughly.
Drop mixture by the tablespoonful on to a greased cookie sheet,
approximately 3 inches apart, to allow for spreading. Bake at
300-310°F for 15 to 17 minutes. Allow to cool on cookie sheet for 5
minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.
Makes approximately 36 cookies.
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