This Anzac Day is a special one in New Zealand and Australia. It's 100 years since the Anzac troops went ashore on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915, and a time to remember the many hardships they endured there.
As my small contribution to the 100th anniversary Anzac Day commemorations I've put together three special recipes to share on my website – the classic Anzac Biscuits, an easy Camp Damper and my new Remembrance Crackers, which are a riff on the cabin bread that was a staple in the trenches.
These recipes symbolise the importance of our Anzac heritage and how it has helped shape our national identity.
Anzac Biscuits, for example, have a proud place in our nation's history – though there's some debate about their origins. Many people think they were sent to the troops at the front during the First World War, but New Zealand's leading expert on Anzac Biscuits, Emeritus Professor Helen Leach of the anthropology and archaeology department at Otago University, isn't so sure.
She says Anzac Biscuits were one of several food items given the new name 'Anzac' to commemorate the Anzac landings, but there is no documentary evidence that they were sent to the troops. They were probably sold at Red Cross stalls set up around New Zealand, raising money for 'comforts for the boys'.
The earliest printed appearance of the recipe that she has found is in the 8th edition of the St Andrew’s Cookery Book, published in Dunedin in 1919. They are called Anzac Crispies and use ingredients and method that we recognise in modern Anzac Biscuits. This recipe has much in common with the earliest known Australian recipe named Anzac Biscuits, published in 1921.
They were made from ingredients that were available at the time – rolled oats, sugar, flour, butter and golden syrup. There are as many variations on Anzac Biscuits as there are cooks in Australia and New Zealand, but you'll find my favourite recipe here.
My recipe for Remembrance Crackers incorporates ingredients symbolic to World War One and the Gallipoli campaign – rosemary and poppy seeds. Rosemary has been a symbol of remembrance since ancient Greece and Rome. It has special significance for Anzac commemorations because it was found growing wild on the Gallipoli Peninsula and today we often see a sprig of it worn on Anzac Day in memory of the dead. Poppies also are a potent symbol of remembrance because they grew around the bodies of fallen soldiers in the barren battlefields of Western Europe.
My third recipe, for a simple Camp Damper, is a Kiwi childhood favourite cooked on sticks over the embers of a campfire then filled with melted butter and honey or jam.
For these and other Anzac-related recipes, click here
ABOUT ANZAC DAY
Anzac Day occurs on 25 April. It commemorates all New Zealanders and Australians killed in war and also honours returned servicemen and women, past and present. The date itself marks the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and
Australian soldiers – the Anzacs – on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. The aim was to capture the Dardanelles, the gateway to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea. At the end of the campaign, Gallipoli was still held by its Turkish defenders.
Thousands lost their lives in the Gallipoli campaign: 87,000 Turks and 44,000 men from France and the British Empire, including 8,500 Australians. Among the dead were more than 2,700 New Zealanders, almost one in four of those who served on Gallipoli.
It may have led to a military defeat, but for many New Zealanders then and since, the Gallipoli landings meant the beginning of something else – a feeling that New Zealand had a role as a distinct nation, even as it fought on the other side of the world in the name of the British Empire.