Last night, Joe and I watched Gallipoli and today I made a batch of Anzac cookies! What’s all the fuss about Australia? I’m leaving on Saturday for a 3 week trip Down Under and I'm very excited! I’ll be teaching in Sydney, Melbourne and taking 12 people on a culinary journey around the Barossa, McLaren Vale and Clare Valley, three beautiful wine regions of South Australia.
It isn’t my first trip to Australia and it definitely won’t be my last. I’ve been teaching and working there since 1990 when my friend Gwenda (from Melbourne, pronounced Mell-bun, of course) saw me teach when she was visiting San Francisco. “Would you ever want to come to Australia to teach? I think Australians would love your style of food!” she said. I acted really cool but I was jumping out of my skin. Honestly! Four months later, I was getting on a Qantas flight with my knives and chef’s jacket bound for Sydney.
I have truly fallen in love with this place. I love spirit of the people, the food, the wine, and I love the geography! I’ve always said that if I didn’t live in my favorite US city—San Francisco, I’d live in Sydney. I've returned year after year teaching and being guest chef in every major city plus the wine regions--Margaret River and the Swan Valley in Western Australia, The Hunter outside Sydney, the Yarra Valley next to Melbourne, Coonawarra, the Barossa, McLaren Vale and Clare in South Australia. I’ve held koalas, sparred with kangaroos, waited at dark for the little penguins in tuxedos to appear and visited Ayers Rock. Australians say I’ve seen more of Australia than they have.
In anticipation of my visit, today I made a batch of ANZAC biscuits. This traditional recipe is associated with the joint Australia/New Zealand public holiday, ANZAC Day, which commemorates the Gallipoli landings during WW1. ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps.
The lore surrounding the cookie and the holiday is a little murky. Some say the soldiers made the biscuits in the trenches with what they had on hand. I kind of doubt that! More plausible is that they were made by the Australian and New Zealand women for the soldiers. These early cookies were pretty durable, rock hard at best, and could withstand overseas travel from Australia to troops in Europe. In 1915, can you imagine how long it took for cookies to arrive by boat?
The ANZAC biscuits I made today are a far cry from the ones they made in the early 1900’s. Mine are chewy, rich and buttery with a hint of coconut. I love the addition of the golden syrup. I thought I had some in my pantry. I searched but I didn't. The challenge was finding some at the grocery store but after a couple stores, I found it next to the corn syrup, honey and maple syrup.
Golden syrup, also called cane syrup, light treacle or sugar cane juice, is an amber-colored liquid sweetener with a slightly toasty, buttery flavor that’s popular among British, Australian, Caribbean, and Creole cooks. It's made by evaporating sugar cane juice until its thick, syrupy and rich. The brand I see most often on the West Coast is Lyle’s Golden Syrup. You can’t miss the green and gold can with the picture of a dead lion surrounded by buzzing bees. Weird, right? According to Lyle, "Samson was travelling to the land of the Philistines in search of a wife. During the journey he killed a lion and on his return past the same spot, he noticed that a swarm of bees had formed a comb of honey in the carcass. Samson later turned this into a riddle--Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness." It actually says that riddle on the can!
And you’re wondering what you can substitute for golden syrup? Some chefs say absolutely nothing while others say you can combine two parts light corn syrup plus one part molasses OR equal parts honey and corn syrup OR maple syrup OR dark corn syrup (the last two are thinner and not as sweet as golden syrup). Or you could try reducing light corn syrup in a saucepan to thicken it. Have I tried any of the substitutes? No, I've always used golden syrup.
I really should have been packing my suitcase today instead of looking for golden syrup and making ANZAC cookies. But right now, I'm dying for a little taste of Australia.
My blog is also taking a little vacation for the next three weeks with me. The best way to follow my journey is on facebook or twitter @joanneweir1.
AUSTRALIAN ANZAC COOKIES
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup sifted all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut
8 tablespoons (4 oz.) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon boiling water
Preheat an oven to 325oF.
Combine the rolled oats, flour, sugar and coconut. Place the butter and golden syrup in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir over gentle heat until the butter is melted. Mix the baking soda with boiling water and add it to the melted butter mixture. Stir in the dry ingredients.
Place heaping tablespoons of the mixture in your hand and roll or form into a ball. Place them on a lightly greased baking sheet 2-inches apart and with the heel of your hand, flatten them slightly to make a 1 to 1-1/2-inch cookie. Bake until golden, 14 to 15 minutes.
Immediately remove them from the baking sheet and place them on a cooling rack.
Makes 2 to 2 1/2 dozen cookies