16. Anzac Biscuits – Australia

Anzac Biscuits

Anzac Biscuits were very high on my list of things to try when we were in Melbourne, but somehow time got away from me and I missed out. I saw them when we visited the Shrine of Remembrance, in the centre of Melbourne and so I thought it was quite a poignant recipe to choose as last week it was Remembrance Sunday in England where we remember the soldiers who have fought for us.

Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne, Australia

I read up a little about Anzac biscuits and they were referred to soldier biscuits because they kept well and could be sent out to the soldiers on the front line. They are particularly important to Australian’s and New Zealanders or the Australian New Zealand Army Corps and are baked to commemorate the day they joined forces. Apparently they’re also sold around England to raise funds for the British Legion but I haven’t seen any as of yet. Any one else spotted them?

I discovered the recipe in Mary Berry’s At Home book and even she said they’re really simple to make. Hence an early morning pre work baking extravaganza! Here’s a very similar recipe from the BBC.

Melting all the butter, sugar and golden syrup together

These biscuits were made in a pan. A very novel idea I think and effective. One pan means less washing up! I liked this recipe all the more!

The butter and sugar were melted together in the pan along with lashing of golden syrup.

Stir in all the dry ingredients, oats and coconut

Then in go the dry ingredients, oats and flour.

and finally the flour

Once its all combined I had to dissolve a teaspoon of baking powder in 2 tablespoons of water, throw it in the mix and then all that was left to do was roll it out! simple as that.

Bicarbonate of Soda paste

I was half way through rolling the butter mix into walnut sized balls and placing them onto the baking sheet when I realised that I couldn’t remember how big a walnut is (I only have walnut halves in the cupboard so was imagining 2 of those squashed together….). A quick check of the recipe told me that it was supposed to make 36 biscuit. I was almost finished rolling them all out and I only had 8!  I was definitely over estimating the size of walnuts.

is this the size of walnuts??

I split each ball in half and carried on making smaller versions. Mary emphasised the need to space the biscuits out as they spread. I tried my best but I only have 2 baking sheets that fit in the oven (I accidentally bought a giant one that I don’t think will fit anyone’s open. Please let me know if you have a spectacularly large  oven as you are more than welcome to the baking sheet!)

So once I flattened the walnut sized balls down it was a bit of a tight squeeze on the tray but with 8 minutes on the oven timer I had just enough time for a shower.

Slightly merged into one biscuit (but it's ok!)

The kitchen smelt amazing with the golden syrupy, coconut, and combination. The biscuits had spread a bit but it wasn’t anything a sharp knife couldn’t fix.

Easily solved! Hand me a knife

I had to do a taste test before packaging them up and they were divine. Chewy yet crunchy. I can see why Mary B got so obsessed with them! They made the perfect sweet treat to take to work. I think we are now officially partaking in elevenses at work it’s almost like being in a Jane Austen novel (almost but not quite).

Anzac Biscuits

You can also freeze the baked biscuits for a month and prolong the pleasure. If they last long enough to put them in the freezer that is…

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11. Pavlova – New Zealand and the Ram Van

I love New Zealand. When we visited it was the middle of winter and despite the snow and a week in a The Ram Van camper sleeping in all my clothes and a body warmer, I still loved the experience. Rambling through river beds to touch the nose of Fox Glacier, bathing in the naturally hot spring waters at the bottom of a snow capped mountains (and freezing to death jumping between the pools) at Hamner Springs and 5 hours on a very rocky ferry accompanied by the little known Hugh Grant classic ‘Music and Lyrics’ (that film got me through a very dark point in my life of extreme seasickness). It doesn’t get much better than this. Such a beautiful country.

Me in the Ram (Camper) van. Can you see the snow capped mountains in the background?

I can’t actually remember eating very much cake whilst in New Zealand, but I do remember eating pumpkin soup when we had to stay in a motel when I cried following the horrific storm filled ferry crossing. It was the best pumpkin soup I’ve ever had. Also coffee and cream from a tube that we had whilst camping. I’ve since tried to buy it in England and it’s unheard of here! Travesty! All those outdoor shops we have and not a sign of coffee in a tube! I really wanted to buy some but thought $35 was a bit too steep to mail order some.

It doesn't get much better than this!

I feel a bit like a broken record, but I’ve never baked a Pavlova before and thought why not give it a go? It can’t be that difficult, can it? Perhaps I should have went for something a bit easier when I had friends coming round for dinner? Perhaps this was a bit too daring, baking New Zealand’s National Dish without practicing or preparing beforehand? Perhaps I should have baked something a little less technical when I hadpeople visiting?? Perhaps, perhaps perhaps, but I always seem to throw myself in at the deep end and look forward to seeing if it turns out ok.

Action shot

Somehow I hadn’t really thought about the hour and a half that it requires in the oven on a very low temperature and that it needs to cool down quite a lot before you can serve it. But I had already whisked  everything up by the time I realised this and the oven was already full of pork and potatoes, which needed 2 hours at a very high temperature… Compromises had to be made and we didn’t eat until ridiculous o’clock (sorry Sarah and Ole!). We were all very hungry by this point!

Glossy and fluffy

I thoroughly enjoyed whisking the egg whites this time without any traces of yolk (Hurrah, progress!) and watching them become very glossy and stand up on end. Throwing in sugar I whisked it all up into a frenzy. The meringue mix too on the light brown hue of the soft demerea sugar that I had blitzed in the blender to make it an even finer grain.

The most difficult part was trying to plonk it all in some sort of attractive mess on a baking tray. Genius struck when I realised I could separate the round flat tin from the loose bottom cake tin and use that instead of trying to squish it into a baking sheet, and it would give a good pavlova shape too!

Sculpture of meringue

It took forever to bake and due to the pork emergency we were having I left it in a bit longer than required on a slightly higher temperature than required. Resulting in a rather two toned, tanned pavlova.

It's not burnt... it's just a bit oven tanned.

I whipped up the cream with lemon zest (very nice touch, I will do that more often!) I threw it all together and attempted to balance an enormous amount of fruit (raspberries, blueberries and strawberries) on top and hoped they wouldn’t fall off when I walked through the beaded curtain from our kitchen to the living room.

Extreme Close Up

This is definitely a dessert to assemble 5 minutes before it’s served and eaten straight away. I was surprised by how soft the meringue was, possibly because I used a different type of sugar as I don’t have golden caster sugar… and possibly because it hadn’t completely cooled down. It was more like a sponge cake on the bottom, once the cream had been added, and chewy meringue on the edges. We all cleared our plates so it must have been ok!