A cup of tea in New Zealand meant bringing out a round biscuit tin containing a variety of shortbread and chocolate biscuits. Here's my second all-time favourite biscuit: crunchy chocolate biscuits, which we called afghans in New Zealand (first in place are gingernuts; I miss them most of all, because you simply can't make them in Greece - golden syrup is not available here.)
No one really knows where they got their name, but here's a bit of trivia for you: they are not included in the fifth edition of Edmonds cookbook, which is in my possession, among other bits of New Zealand trivia that I could not bear to part with: a set of Maori poi, an Air New Zealand souvenir tiki and a pestle and mortar made out of rimu wood. The first edition of the Edmonds cookbook came out in 1907, while the third came out in 1914. I also own the 19th printing of the 19th De Luxe edition published in 1983. I'm wondering if they were invented during a war period; they are a relatively recent invention, but then New Zealand hasn't been around that long either, and cornflakes are quite a novel way of eating corn, which is one of the earliest grains.
I don't know if their name has changed for politically correct reasons (and it should, don't you think?), but I can't imagine why these biscuits should be called afghans. They are normally iced with chocolate and have a walnut stuck on the top; still, does that make them resemble an Afghani? My friend Mike from
I remember the afghan biscuits sold in the university cafeteria; they were as large as a dessert plate. They were also sold as good NZ chow in teashops, and later at various trendy cafes ike Esspressoholic in the then up-and-coming Courtenay Place. I always had them with a huge cup of frothy cappuccino almost as large as a soup bowl. And I didn't blush, not even a hint, when I said to the multi-pierced shop assistant: "One Afghan, please." Oh, for the pre-PC days. Afghans also started to be mass-produced by the Griffins biscuit company (it was one biscuit they didn't stock in their enormous range of biscuits); I tried them when I visited New Zealand in 1994, but I felt they didn't live up to the real thing. For a start, they don't use cornflakes.
The recipe I used comes from keewee, another NZ ex-pat, who makes these for Christmas. She ices them with chocolate, and then sprinkles them with dessicated coconut resembling snow.
7 ounces butter
3 ounces sugar
6 ounces flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup corn flakes, slightly crushed after measuring
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
Cream softened butter and sugar, add sifted flour and cocoa. Stir in coconut and crushed corn flakes. Put small spoonfuls on a greased oven tray (I sometimes use baking paper, but this is not environmentally sound; I greased the baking tray with olive oil) and bake for about 15 minutes at 350F. Leave them on the oven tray a few minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool.
They are lenten biscuits if made with margarine, but they don't taste as good as when they're made with butter. The Edmonds cookbook states: "200g butter, 75g sugar, 175g flour, 25g cocoa, 50g cornflakes".
The traditional recipe does not use coconut, but I liked these better because they were firmer and crunchier. Keewee's idea is better than the original, which contains whole walnuts; I don't like whole nuts in my cookies, either. I also made them without the coconut another time, and they tasted just like the New Zealand variety. These cookies can probably be kept for at least a week if you make a big batch, but they are so moreish, that I doubt you will resist the temptation to eat them all in one go. I didn't even get as far as icing them, which is probably not such a bad thing after all; they contained less sugar, meaning I could help myself to more than one at each coffee break.
This post is dedicated to Row, because she liked Espressoholic, just like me.
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