ANZAC is holiday, biscuit

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 15, 2014

Cook and Gardener author Connie Anderson, above, with a Devon herd in New Zealand.

Cook and Gardener author Connie Anderson, above, with a Devon herd in New Zealand.

ANZAC is a national holiday in Australia and New Zealand and they take it seriously. The term ANZAC is protected by law. ANZAC is an acronym for Australian New Zealand Army Corp. ANZAC Day was originally begun to honor the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp who fought for the empire in Gallipoli in WW I. The campaign failed but a large number of soldiers died fighting and a large number of those were from Australia and New Zealand. The holiday now honors those who have fought in all the conflicts where New Zealand and Australia participated.

During WWI wives sent oat biscuits to their soldier husbands as they did not spoil during the long trip to the front. These sweet ‘cookies’ as we would call them are available for sale in New Zealand as ANZAC biscuits and their recipe is mandated by law if they are to be called ANZAC biscuits. The recipe was first noted in a cookbook, St. Andrew’s Cooking Book, from Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1915.

It was a cake and was not exactly what was sent to the front. The name and the present recipe first appeared in a later edition of the cookbook in 1921.

We were treated to these with lunches and afternoon teas. The first time was at the lovely family farm home of the Kellicks, Tokorangi Farm. The house was built at the turn of the last century by an ancestor and lunch was served in their beautiful garden. The drive to the house was lined with huge and colorful hydrangeas and Agapanthus, both in full bloom. The Agapanthus, Lily of the Nile, is considered a weed in New Zealand and is found along the roadside all over the North Island.

Of course, there was a discussion about the recipe for ANZAC biscuits. An Australian tour member thought she had a better recipe and her biscuits were thinner and crispier.

Many of our lunches were prepared by the farm hosts and served in their gardens. One roasted a ‘hoglette’ for us. Bet you don’t know what that is. It is not pork but a two- lyear old sheep—not lamb but not mutton either.

Anzac Biscuits
‘Biscuits down under’ should be a hit.
Makes 2 dozen cookies
1 cup regular oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons water
¼ cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons golden cane syrup, or light-colored corn syrup
Cooking spray
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Combine first five ingredients in a large bowl. Add water, butter, and syrup; stir well. Drop by level tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 325° for 12 minutes or until almost set. Remove from oven; let stand 2-3 minutes or until firm. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire rack.

I, of course, looked for a cookbook while there but ended up buying a New Zealand cooking magazine and we are enjoying a simple dish appropriate for this time of year with spring greens from ‘Cuisine.’ Unfortunately, our lemon trees didn’t produce this year but they are in season too.

Rice with Spinach, Feta, Dill and Lemon from March 2014 ‘Cuisine’
This dish was so good that I made it two days in a row. Can be served with a poached egg, grilled chicken, or as they would do in New Zealand, a quickly cooked lamb cut. It was a single course lunch for us.
Serves 4
1 cup basmati rice
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1-12oz. bag fresh spinach
½ cup feta, crumbled
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill, chives, or flat-leafed parsley
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Rinse the rice under cold water then put in a saucepan with 2 cups water and the salt. Bring to a boil then lower the heat, cover with a tightly fitting lid and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and sit, with the lid on, for another 5 minutes to allow the rice to absorb any remaining water.
While you have left the rice to sit, heat the oil in a large pan, add the garlic and fry for 1 minute until it has softened but not colored. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted. Drain well then stir in the rice along with the feta, herbs, lemon zest and juice. Taste, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper then serve immediately.