This weekend’s World Cup Cook-off on The Global Table takes us to Australia and New Zealand, with photographer and university lecturer Alex Syndikas preparing one of Australia’s main exports – lamb – and former Port Elizabeth English teacher Nicola Hare and husband Francois Marais testing a recipe for Anzac biscuits. And the timing couldn’t be better, as Anzac Day, after which these biscuits are named, will be celebrated across Australia and New Zealand on Sunday, April 25.
The biscuits are said to have originated during the First World War, when the wives of servicemen fighting in the Australia and New Zealand Armed Corps (Anzac) sent them to their hubbies on the front. These crunchy treats, which keep very well, are eaten all year round, but are especially popular on Anzac Day, which is celebrated to pay tribute to the Anzac troops who fought at Gallipoli in Turkey during the First World War.
Nicola and Francois, who have lived in Wellington, New Zealand since the beginning of the year, say the biscuits are a favourite with “trampers” (hikers in SA-speak), because they are quite nutritious and can survive a few days at the bottom of a rucksack.
“As is the case with the Pavlova dessert and Russel Crowe, Kiwis and Aussies both claim to be the original source of Anzac biscuits,” the couple says. “It is said – by Kiwis editing Wikipedia, we think! – that the word Anzac was first printed in combination with the current recipe in a 1921 cookbook published in Dunedin, New Zealand.
‘Minor variations to the recipe exist, but the core ingredients and method are constant – we’re talking buttery oat and coconut baked biscuits here.” And don’t forget the syrup…
Anzac Biscuits – The Recipe
The recipe Francois and Nicola have chosen comes from the Edmonds Sure to Rise Cookery Book. This New Zealand icon was first published in 1908 and remains the standard work for homely Kiwi recipes (“a bit like an antipodean Kook en Geniet”, Francois says). The recipe yields about 36 biscuits.
100g butter; 1 Tbsp golden syrup; ½ cup sugar; ¾ cup desiccated coconut; ¾ cup rolled oats; ¾ cup of plain baking (cake) flour; 1 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda); 2 Tbsp hot water (here Francois and Nicola disagree with Edmonds; which says 1 Tbsp of water, but that makes the mixture a bit dry.)
Melt the butter and syrup together in a large saucepan. Take the saucepan off the plate to cool. Mix the sugar, coconut, rolled oats and flour together. Stir the dry mixture into the saucepan. Dissolve the baking soda in the water and mix it into the other ingredients. Place rounded teaspoonfuls (“we think tablespoonfuls work even better”) on a greased oven tray and press down lightly on each spoonful with a fork. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the biscuits from the oven and allow them to cool on the tray for a few minutes before moving them to a cooling rack.
World Cup Cook-off: Australia
Melbourne-based Alex Syndikas has taken traditional Australian lamb and given it a fresh twist – don’t miss his delicious recipe for Lamb Mignon with sweet-potatoes and spinach further down!
Alex lives in the southern state of Melbourne in Australia, but comes from an Greek/Austrian family with links to Alexandria, Egypt. His family immigrated to Australia and Alex has spent much of his life in Melbourne. He travels frequently to visit relatives abroad, hence his culinary influences are primarily European and Middle Eastern.
Art and photography are his main passions, and for the past 25 years Alex has been teaching advertising photography at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University. He has also been conducting, through RMIT, annual study tours to Paris to follow the footsteps of the French Impressionists for the past 14 years.
Cooking is another favourite pastime and Alex has given traditional Australian lamb own special interpretation in the recipe below, which he says is perfect for when you want to go out of your way to treat your dinner guests. You will need to put aside at least a day’s preparation time for it.
Lamb Mignon with Sweet-potatoes and Spinach – The Recipe
One leg of high-quality spring lamb; 1/2 cup of finely chopped parsley; 3 cloves of garlic; 1/2 cup of butter; 9 slices of double smoked middle bacon rashers; 4 sweet-potatoes; 1 bunch of baby spinach; 1 cup of fresh double cream; 1/2 cup of coconut cream; 1/2 cup of cashew nuts; fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary and sage); 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil; freshly-ground pepper and sea salt.
Remove the bone from the lamb and cut it into rectangular portions about 6 by 15cm and about 2cm thick. Layer the lamb strips in a dish and season with the herbs, salt, pepper and olive oil; cover with cling-wrap. Refrigerate overnight so the seasoning penetrates the lamb fillets.
To preparing the lamb dish, spread a strip of bacon onto a chopping board. Combine the butter, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper into a paste. Spread a thin layer of paste over a strip of lamb and lay it on top of the bacon strip. Roll the lamb together with the bacon tightly and secure it with a toothpick; repeat with the rest of the lamb and bacon. Place the rolls into an ovenproof dish and into an oven at 180°C for 40 minutes, or until cooked to your liking.
The sweet-potatoes should be sliced into discs about 1/2cm thick and baked in the oven until crisp. Next prepare the baby spinach in a frying pan and lightly fry it in butter until wilted.
For the sauce, combine the fresh cream with the coconut cream and refrigerate for 2 hours.
To serve the dish, place the cooked lamb mignon onto individual plates. Arrange the sweet-potatoes on one side and the spinach together with cashew nuts on the other side. Slightly heat the cream sauce and pour it around the dish. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and fresh ground pepper.
Alex says this dish is especially enjoyable with a glass of Pinot Noir.