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ANZAC DAY What did we eat? Hard Tack!

April 24, 2012

ANZAC DAY What did we eat? Hard Tack!
25TH APRIL - ANZAC day - the day the ANZACs landed at Gallipoli -  is an emotional day for many; for others it's a gift to kick back on a day off and celebrate the freedom handed to them by the diggers. The  25th April – is probably Australia's most important national occasion. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.

Have you ever thought how the Australians at Gallipoli could be supplied with food: many thousands of men, at short notice, with no refrigeration? While they were fighting at Gallipoli the Australian soldiers were supplied with food from as far away as Egypt and Greece, and this, combined with the lack of refrigeration, meant that they could get very little fruit, vegetables, meat or dairy products.
Chefs were then know as 'camp cooks', who learnt to blend a feast from rudimentary ingredients with little more than a pot and a naked flame.  The pot was usually tin or aluminium which didn't hold the same shine as the stainless steel commercial kitchens the defence forces enjoy today.  HACCP was unheard of as a food safety acronym  - Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points would likely interpret as: air raid hazard approaching, critical to survive, seek shelter at a safety point!

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, and the recipe (below) has been provided by Arnott's. If you know the famous Arnott's SAO biscuit you will see a strong resemblence. SAO's are now a softer and more palatable version of the original Hard Tack.

Everyone has the recipe for our beloved ANZAC biscuits so we thought you would enjoy trying the traditional 'hard tack' from World War I. (see below)

We love our national anthem (Advance Australia Fair) and sing it with pride. Here are 2 versions from You Tube.
One is unique: The Aussie anthem lyrics have been mixed with an Aussie rock anthem's tune -
 sung by Aussie Adam Hills.
The second is beautiful and respectful in the traditional sense - sung by Aussie Katie Noonan.


Makes six biscuits.
Gallipoli, 1915 Soldiers in the trenches
enjoying a light meal. H02303

1½ cups self-raising white flour
3 cups self-raising wholemeal flour
5 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons milk powder
pinch salt
1 cup water

Large mixing bowl
Mixing spoon
Board and rolling pin
Baking tray

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Place dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix together.
Make a well in the centre and add the water. Mix together until an even dough is formed.
Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead for a few minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and let rest for half an hour.
Divide the dough into three and then roll each ball into thick 1cm sheets.
Cut the rolled sheet of dough into 9 cm squares, using the edge of a steel ruler, rather than a knife. This pressing action helps to join the top and bottom surfaces of the biscuit and will improve the "lift" in baking.
Now make a regular pattern of holes in each biscuit, five holes across by five holes down (25 holes in all). The ideal tool to use to make these holes is a cotton bud with the cotton wool cut off or the thick end of a bamboo skewer. Push it through to the bench, twist slightly and withdraw. (Some historians claim that each biscuit had 49 holes.)
Place on a slightly greased baking tray, being careful that the biscuits are not touching. Form a wall around the outside edge with scrap dough. This will stop the outside edges of the biscuits from burning.
Bake on the centre shelf for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. Be careful not to burn them!
Leave the biscuits on a cooling rack until they harden. Or switch off the oven and return the biscuits to the oven until it becomes cool.

Pic: ANZACs eating hard tack biscuits. Diggers often broke their teeth on the biscuits. It was preferable to dunk into a cup of tea to soften.  Tell us how your recipe turned out.

ANZACs eating hard tack biscuits

Information extracted from The Australian War Memorial

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