Blog post – Remembrance

Posted on

1st December 2014


There have been ceremonies all over the world this week to mark the centenary of the Great War and Remembrance Sunday. I spent the morning with my son who is a ‘sixer’ in the 1st Hallingbury Cub Scouts. The Cubs were joined by the Beavers, Brownies, Scouts and Explorers as well as veterans and residents of Little Hallingbury village. It was a beautiful service; and I loved the fact that old and young were equally involved in this extra-special Remembrance Day. The Last Post being played by the bugler in the cold morning air and the haunting refrain of ‘Abide With Me’ during the service were truly poignant moments. The whole Hamilton family attended the service and we were joined by my mother-in-law Mary, who has been visiting us from Devon for the week.

Now I know Mary won’t mind me telling you this, but she was born just before the start of World War 2 and was evacuated from London to Exeter when she was just 2 years old. Earlier in the week I read a fascinating article about a woman named Carolyn Ekins who had lost 7 stones in just over a year, following a WW2 rations diet. A bit extreme you might say, but not only did she lose weight she saved thousands of pounds; spending a mere £2 per day on food. Having read about this, I was quizzing Mary about her memories of wartime eating and the years of rationing. As a large family (she is one of 9 siblings) there were always plenty of coupons to hand, although not always the money to pay for their full allocation. But Mary remembers ‘digging for victory’ with plenty of fresh vegetables from the allotments to supplement their rations. She would get a hot meal during the school day, but many meals at home were just bread and jam; she said the family used to get through a 2lb pot of jam a week easily. There was also no chance of being a fussy eater, everything on her plate would be finished whether she liked it or not, and everyone was hungry by dinner time!

So although I should probably have given you a recipe for Lord Woolton pie (diced vegetables and oatmeal with a potato pastry top) which would no doubt have gained the approval of the Ministry of Food, I wanted to celebrate our acts of Remembrance this week. I couldn’t think of a better way to do it than with a great cake recipe using poppy seeds. I hope you’ll make it and as you enjoy a slice with a cup of tea, remember the sacrifices of all those who made it possible for you to enjoy the safety and freedom to do just that.

Lemon and poppy seed cake


  • 3 eggs
  • Up to 170 gms golden caster sugar
  • 170 gms butter or margarine (+ extra for greasing)
  • 170 gms self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • Icing – 50gms icing sugar and enough freshly squeezed lemon juice to make a drizzling consistency glacé icing


  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (170 fan). A really well pre-heated oven is important for a good bake, so put it on as soon as you get into the kitchen.
  2. Grease and line a 9×5 inch loaf tin with baking parchment.
  3. I make all my cakes this way, it may sound unconventional but I’ve always done it this way and it always seems to work. Don’t worry if the mix looks a little bit curdled, it doesn’t seem to affect the finished product!
  4. First crack the eggs into a bowl and measure the combined weight using kitchen scales. If they weigh 160 gms, then measure exactly the same weight of margarine, sugar and flour and add into the bowl with the eggs. Add the baking powder and beat really well together. I usually put everything into my stand mixer and beat the heck out of it for exactly 3 minutes.
  5. Finally add in the lemon zest and juice and the poppy seeds and stir through.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes. When the top is well risen and golden brown and a skewer comes out clean, the cake is done.
  7. Let the cake cool for 10 mins or so, then carefully remove the cake and place on a presentation plate. Use a skewer or sharp knife, poke lots of holes in the top of the cake and drizzle over the icing.