Wednesday, 24 April 2013

ANZAC Biscuits and Bully Beef

This April 25 will honour the 97th commemoration of ANZAC Day in Melbourne. It was first officially marked on the anniversary of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers landing at Gallipoli. It is one of the few public holidays in Australia when everything slows down and most places (including the Market) close as a sign of respect.

10th Battalion during the Somme advance, February 1917
It is also a day to think about the meals of our first Australian soldiers. Because of the fighting conditions and the lack of refrigeration, few of their rations contained fresh produce or meat:
So what did they eat? Bully beef (tinned corned beef), rice, jam, cocoa, tea, some bread and above all hard tack fed the Australian soldiers at Gallipoli. Hard tack, also known as "ANZAC Wafer", or "ANZAC Tile", has a very long shelf life, unlike bread. Hard tack or biscuits continued to be eaten during the Second World War. The original biscuits were made by Arnott's                                             
                                                                                 Australian War Memorial

Apart from as a scholarly experiment, I do not advise eating hard tack. The Australian War Memorial provides the Arnott's recipe here but also warns: 
Hard tack is really hard - there are many stories of soldiers breaking their teeth on them, so be careful!

A more appetizing historical bake are ANZAC biscuits. These were created as a nutritious oaty snack that did not require eggs and could last for months during the shipping process. The word "ANZAC" is protected by Commonwealth legislation and commercial products using the word must obtain the approval of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. ANZAC biscuits however, fall into their own category, with the Department stating:

It should be noted that approvals for the word 'Anzac' to be used on biscuit products have been given provided that the product generally conforms to the traditional recipe and shape, and is not used in association with the word 'cookies', with its non-Australian overtones. For instance, an application for Anzac biscuits dipped in chocolate would not be approved as they would not conform with the traditional recipe.

Phillippa's Bakery and Provisions' ANZAC biscuits can be found at Delicatess and Pete 'n Rosie's Deli. And coeliacs don't have to miss out, we've got them at the Gluten Free Providore too. ANZAC biscuits are very simple to make and children often enjoy it, catching the drips of golden syrup as they fall off the spoon.

ANZAC Biscuit card from The Essential Ingredient

Corned beef is also still found on many Australian tables, whether slapped between the layers of a Reuben sandwich or presented as the traditional Irish corned beef with cabbage. You can buy cooked corned beef from Pete 'n Rosie's Deli or stop by J & L Meats for a lovely piece of silverside and get it simmering with onion, celery and carrot - creating a delicious smell and a hearty meal on a cold April day. And the leftovers, diced and fried with onion and mashed potato make a comforting corned beef hash for breakfast the next day. 

So whether you're at the Dawn Service at the Shrine of Remembrance, watching the ANZAC Day Veteran's March or even the football match, think of our diggers' food and like them, tuck in.

Photograph by Charles Meeks
The Prahran Market will be closed on Thursday 25 April 2013 and will reopen on Friday 26 April at 7am.

Please note that service and life members of the RSL may collect Prahran Market bags containing a shopping, coffee and parking voucher from the Market Office upon presentation of their membership card until 26 April 2013.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

April Fool!

Huzzah! Yes, that day of year has rolled around again, when tricksters see just how far they can spin a yarn and many of the rest of us roll our eyes and think "When will it be noon so that this nonsense stops?".

But strolling around the Fruit & Vegetable Hall can give you an unnerving sense of April Fool. Even if Michael Mow, Potato Man, the unlikely person doing the pranking.

Because, these days, things aren't what they used to be. Yet sometimes, they are what they used to be, we've just forgotten what to expect. And smell. And taste.

Startled by purple and green cauliflower?

Orange cauliflowers have supposedly 25 times the levels of beta carotene (Vitamin A) as white cauliflower. The purple one gets its hue from anthocyanin, which is the same antioxidant in red wine and red cabbage. If nothing else, these unusually coloured brassicas encourage curiousity and tasting from the disbelieving (children in particular). Serve them simply, raw or lightly steamed with just a hint of butter.

Walking past Damian Pike's stall the other day, I picked up some vibrant orange tomatoes. They were tiny, but the flavour was intense and they were a bright pop of colour in an otherwise ordinary salad. A "taste bomb" indeed.

Been fooled by a fruit recently?

Kiwiberries appeared at Reliable Fruit & Vegies last year and popped up all around the Market this summer. Market shoppers were seen peering at them, these round green baby kiwis in the midst of punnets of blueberries and raspberries. What exactly was going on here? These kiwiberries have a "fuzz-free" skin and are able to be eaten whole, skin and all.

And for other miniature items that can deceive the eye but not the tastebuds, you can't go past the display of birds eye chilies at Lee's Asian Grocery or Pino's Fine Produce. So innocent, so beautiful, so utterly utterly deadly. The unaware may chomp down on one whole, only to find themselves fleeing for a glass of milk or handful of palm sugar. There's a reason why renowned Thai expert David Thompson refers to them as "scuds". Treat them with respect, people.

Running my hands through a box full of fresh green olives down at F & J Fruiterers the other day, I couldn't help thinking it was the perfect camouflage for edibility. Have you tried eating an olive straight from the tree? It is frankly disgusting. But someone, sometime 6000 years ago figured out that you could cure olives, transform them with many changes of water and a touch of salt into something quite delightful.

Photo courtesy of Ed Kwon

And for that most magic of foods in disguise, I can't go past the marrow. Who would think, between those rough hunks of bone lies such a deeply delicious, rich and decadent feast? Long before Fergus Henderson made Roast Marrow with Parsley Salad his signature dish at St John, this was a hidden delight, a cook's feast, something to be eaten with the fingers while the fancier cuts were carried out to the dining room. Nutrient dense and full of the most primal flavour imaginable. Stop by one of our butchers and pick up some broad bones to roast at home. 

Let's face it, you're a fool if you don't.