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.

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