Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Afghans – childhood comfort food

Change can be gentle and gradual like a breeze running over your face or harsh and heartfelt like a might wind that knocks you off your feet. Recently we have lots of change. My sister Fran has moved interstate, our friendly next door neighbours are moving house, I have moved into a new office, E started a new job and we have just bought a new car. It is not all bad but it is hard work keeping up and adjusting. This is change that requires the comfort of home made biscuits just like my mum used to make!

It is actually a couple of weeks since I made the Afghans but I could do with another batch of comfort right now. In fact I have felt shame faced that it has taken me so long to blog them. Perhaps it is due to our lack of cornflakes in the house. When I was a child I ate cornflakes regularly but I rarely do now that I have discovered so many other breakfast options. However cornflakes has recently become a staple item in our kitchen because Sylvia loves them for breakfast

With cornflakes in the cupboard and upheaval aplenty, Afghans were just what I needed. I baked them while Sylvia was in bed (albeit not sleeping). When I got her up, she found me pulling a tray of bikkies out of the oven. Mischief being her middle name, she had climbed up on a chair and sampled a hot bikkie before I could stop her. Needless to say she loved them.

Of all the biscuits my mum used to bake when I was little, Afghans were my favourite. I thought they must be Australian until I started blogging and read people say they were from New Zealand. So I asked my mum where she got the recipe and she said it was in a cookbook she got soon after she was married. (I don’t know where the name came from but it doesn’t seem to be from Afghanistan.) They were often in the cupboard and my mum still bakes them.

My greatest memory of making Afghans with my mum is mixing the cornflakes into the batter. No matter how many times I made them, I thought I would never mix all those cornflakes into that thick unyielding batter. They also seemed special because my mum put a drop of sherry into the chocolate icing and a walnut on top. I haven’t seen sherry added to other Afghan recipes around the web so maybe it is my mum’s innovation. Nothing like a pre-dinner sherry for a bit of inspiration!

Afghan biscuits never cease to delight. They are chocolatey, buttery and short with the crunch of cornflakes. The creamy sweet icing makes for a delightful contrast. You could get away without the walnuts but the icing is mandatory. It is necessary for the perfect combination of tastes and textures.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time one year ago: Recreating Pad Thai
This time two years ago: PPN #88 Roasted Asparagus, Tomato and Caper Pasta

from my mum
makes about 30 biscuits

6oz (187g) butter
1 oz (2-3 dessertspoons) cocoa
6oz (1¼ cups) self raising flour
3 oz (½ cup) brown sugar
2 oz (2 cups) cornflakes or wheeties
chocolate icing*
walnut halves**

Cream butter and sugar. Add sifted cocoa and flour. Stir in cornflakes gradually. Spoon teaspoonfuls onto greased tray [you don’t need to flatten them but give them an inch or two to spread slightly]. Bake in moderate oven for 12-15 minutes. Ice with chocolate icing* and a walnut**.

* I don’t give amounts for icing above because I wrote the recipe as I had it in my notebook but if you are not sure you just need a cup or two of icing sugar, a good spoon of butter, one or two teaspoons of cocoa, a teaspoon of sherry and enough hot water (just a dribble or two) to make the mixture spreadable.

** Traditionally Afghans have half a walnut on top but I shelled some walnut that were in my fruit bowl and most were not perfect halves.

On the stereo:
Andre Zeiten (Brown edition) - Various Artists


  1. It's definitely nice to have some kind of constant in a sea of change. these Afghans, though I've never heard of them before, seem to hit on all the right comfort food notes. Delicious.

  2. I've heard of afghan biscuits but never made them, and I grew up in a house with a mother who loved baking! Sherry in the icing sounds pretty special. The biscuits look really yum. I'll just add afghans to my 'to cook' list.

  3. I have never actually heard of these biscuits - but I will have to make a batch sometime soon! Thanks for sharing :)

  4. Yum! I thought that a recent experience with these biscuits was my first but I'm now wondering if my mum did actually make these during my childhood, skipping the walnuts because my brother hates them. The cornflakes are very familiar, and it's very much the kind of recipe that featured in the Women's Weekly books of biscuits and slices. :-)

  5. LOL - you can never have enough sherry, so I might take this tip. These look devine, and I would love one right now.

  6. It's funny how something that was a childhood staple for one person can be entirely new to another! And yes, by that I mean that I've never even heard of Afghan cookies before. They do look wonderfully old-timey and nostalgic, though, if that's possible when I've never had them!

  7. Oooh these are some of my favourite cookies ever! I love how the cornflakes give them that extra crunch as does the walnut and I also like the satiny icing :D

  8. well I've never heard of Afghans but they remind me of Cornflake cakes from my childhood. In no way as sophisticated as yours - just melted chocolate and cornflakes as far as I recall!
    Yours look scrummy. Congratulations to E on the new job.

  9. They do sound like the perfect comfort cookie/biscuit--but I wonder where the name originated? Odd! (But who cares, really, as long as you have chocolate covered with chocolate?) ;)

  10. Yum, this is the first time I've heard of Afghans, but they look delicious! That frosting on top looks wonderful, too. The crunchiness from the cornflakes sounds like it would be great!

  11. These look delicious, and I will give them a try come Yule. I found you through your vegetarian haggis recipe. I have just returned from my first trip to Edinburgh where I had veggie haggis in a pub, now I am on fire to make it!

  12. Thanks Joanne - definitely tick all the comfort boxes for me - and happy to share the comfort around

    Thanks Deb - I had thought them popular in Australia but maybe they were only popular in my house

    Thanks Tahn and Lisa

    Thanks Cindy - it is exactly the sort of recipe you would find in the Australian Women's Weekly - though I suspect my mum's cookbook predated the AWW - it might have been the PWMU or Nursing Mothers Assoc???

    Thanks Cakelaw - sherry brings a certain sophistication to the icing, if that is your tipple

    Thanks Hannah - I am sure that vicarious nostalgia is quite real - I get it all the time in blogging!

    Thanks Lorraine - it is worth buying cornflakes just for these biscuits - in fact I still have some in my pantry that I bought ages ago to make them - must use it up

    Thanks Nic - I never had cornflake cakes but like the idea that if we had met at lunchtime at school we might have swapped cornflake bikkies

    Thanks Ricki - the name never struck me as odd when I was a child but I wonder what I would have thought if I knew it also referred to people from a faraway country called Afghanistan?

    Thanks Jodye - I hope it wont be the last time you hear of these biscuits - they really need more promotion!

    Thanks Wizardess - hope you love them (who wouldn't) and Good luck with trying the haggis - it is easy and wonderful (esp in nachos)

  13. Coo, another delicious sounding chocolate recipe to make - sounds really interesting using cornflakes to give it a nice crunch. And your mum is pure genius with the sherry addition - that I must use.

  14. The veggie haggis was delish. I especially loved the mashed neeps alongside. Boyfriend loved it too, and said it was better than meaty haggis! It was v. soft, as I used a combo of rolled oats & wheat germ as the binder. no whisky, no yeast that the same as nutritional yeast? I will add more pepper next time as well. The pub haggis I had was firmer & pepperier, and seemed to have lentils in it. We're going to have a Burns night, so I'll be making it again.

  15. I can still remember from childhood the sweet, chocolatey aroma when I opened the round tin with mum's afghans in them. Very homesick now!

  16. I've never had or seen anything like this! They sound really good and like such a nice homey cookie.


Thanks for dropping by. I love hearing from you. Please share your thoughts and questions. Annoyingly the spammers are bombarding me so I have turned on the pesky captcha code (refresh to find an easy one if you don't like the first one)