Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Welcome Back Cutty Sark ! A Celebration with Anzac Biscuits.

My split personality of being an Oz and living in the UK is illustrated by the commemoration days this week.

I know it was St Georges Day on Monday but I could not think of a suitably culinary treat to celebrate so we had spatchcock chicken and roast veges.  According to the Oxford dictionary the first record of the word spatchcock came from Ireland in the 1700s and referred to a small chicken, called poussin in France possibly originating from the phase ‘dispatch a cock’ meaning to kill the chicken.  Nowadays it refers to a method of preparing poultry by flattening and opening it out to shorten the cooking time.  I love spatchcock chickens because I can prepare and cook a whole roast for two in an hour. Placing a couple of sliced up onions under the chicken makes it particularly yummy.

On Mondays I sit next to Rahul from India. We swap stories about British/Australian and Indian festivals and traditions.  His last query was ‘Why eggs and chickens at Easter?”  We had an interesting conversation about the merging of ancient pagan rituals with Christian celebrations and my anthropology background came in very handy. Sometimes our discussions become quite lively and Sam chips in to try and wind me up further! 

Anyway about poor old neglected St George.  Rahul asked me about St George’s day so I was trying to remember back to my Girl Guide and Brownie days when we had to learn all about our country’s flag. Because the Union Jack is in the corner of it, we had to know how it was made up – the flags of St George, St Andrew of Scotland and St Patrick of Ireland. Wales is missing because it was part of England when the flag was designed.  Wikipedia says that strictly speaking, it should be called the Union flag and only called the Union Jack when flown from a boat – hmm – not many people know that! The rest of the Oz flag is made up with the Southern Cross star constellation and the Federation Star. The Southern Cross is the most recognisable constellation in the southern hemisphere, holding huge significance for the Aboriginal people and for navigation.  I can’t wait to spot it on my first night back in Australia. The Federation Star has seven points to represent Australia’s five states and two territories.

It is Anzac day today – one of the most important dates in the Australian calendar. It is marked by a public holiday – we don’t have Bank holidays – and memorial services / parades of ex- and serving armed service personnel. In my family we always baked Anzac biscuits and I have continued the tradition over here. 

The Australian War Memorial Web- site* offers this explanation of the history:

“When war broke out in 1914, Australia had been a federal commonwealth for only 13 years. The new national government was eager to establish its reputation among the nations of the world. In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The ultimate objective was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany.

The Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated, after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed. News of the landing on Gallipoli had made a profound impact on Australians at home, and 25 April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.
It is said that, because they stored well and contained no eggs (which were in short supply then), women back home baked them and sent them out to the troops.  Last night I made a batch and brought them into the Enquiry Unit today and, by special request, am now posting the recipe – enjoy!

Anzac Biscuits:
1 cup (100g) rolled oats
1 cup (150g) plain flour
¾ cup (70g) desiccated coconut
¾ cup (190g) sugar
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
½ cup (125g0 butter melted
2 tablespoons (60g) golden syrup

Pre- heat oven to 160o C. Combine oats, flour, coconut and sugar.  Dissolve the soda in the boiling water and add to melted butter and golden syrup.  Pour into the dry ingredients and mix well.  Place in teaspoonfuls on a greased baking tray, leaving lots of room for spreading. Bake for 15 minute or until golden brown.  Remove from tray while they are still warm or you will need a hammer and chisel!  Enjoy! 

Here is my experience in pictures of making my batch of Anzac biscuits yesterday morning
Preparation – that all went pretty much to plan!!

Oops, the recipe DID say to allow room for them to spread!!

No wonder they are all shapes, all sizes – just like the cheapy fruit in Sainsbury’s!

I was sooo excited to see on the news that Her Maj has re-opened the Cutty Sark today. After years of extensive refitting and, almost destroyed by a massive fire five years ago, it’s fantastic to see her back in all her glory.  I love that ship and I am really hoping that they have managed to keep the smell of tea in the hold.  There was a fascinating video that used to play on a loop in a corner of the hold depicting the very rare footage of sailors working the sails. They stood in a line on ropes high up the masts furling and unfurling heavy canvas sails in all weathers as the ship was tossed around on the huge waves. I would stand there for ages inhaling the aroma of tea, trying to imagine the lives of those sailors.  If I watched the film for too long I’d end up feeling quite queasy from the depiction of all that swaying around! 

The Cutty Sark began her life as a record breaking tea clipper, built for speed to transport tea to England as quickly as possible to retain its freshness.  She lost her speed advantage when the faster steam ships took over.  She was then deployed for several years to make the ‘wool run’ from Australia, continuing to break speed records on that long and dangerous journey. there you have the full circle this week’s UK / Oz connections and commemorations! 

...but  I need to end with another very important date to commemorate this week – tomorrow is my sister Jinny’s birthday in Blackwood Australia.  She edits an amazing prize-winning local paper called the Blackwood News.

When I read it I am transported back to the kitchen of her old ex-gold miner’s cottage drinking coffee and looking out over the bush ringing to the sounds of cockatoos squawking, and kookaburras laughing.  Happy Birthday JINNY!

Recipe  the PMWU Centenary Cookbook 2005, Lothian Books, Melbourne, Australia
Oz flag:
Union jack:
*Information re ANZACS -
Gallipoli campaign:
Cutty Sark opening:
Cutty Sark history:
Blackwood news:
Cutty Sark:
Spatchcock chicken:


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