[poem + recipe] a taste of Aunt Margaret’s Pudding by Alison Brackenbury

Recently, by lucky happenstance, I ran across Aunt Margaret’s Pudding as I was browsing the online shop of – *wait for it*HappenStance Press, a small indie publisher based in Fife, Scotland.

Truth is, I simply cannot resist a charming title, especially when it contains ‘Margaret’ (my mother’s name), and the word ‘pudding,’ which usually makes me want to hug myself, it’s so dang adorable.

Aunt Margaret’s Pudding, by British poet Alison Brackenbury, is a collection of poems and recipes inspired by her paternal grandmother Dorothy Eliza Barnes (“Dot”). 

photo of Dorothy Eliza Barnes via Rylands Blog.

Dot (b. 1894) worked as a professional Edwardian cook in Nottingham before marrying a shepherd and living in various cottages around Lincolnshire. She recorded her family’s favorite recipes in a black notebook which Brackenbury later inherited along with Dot’s wooden desk.

The poems are not only a revealing bit of family history, but an interesting glimpse of early 20th century East Midlands farm and country life. This was a time when almost everything was homemade, people walked to work, and neighbors “saved” each other (when Dot was bedridden after the birth of her fourth child, one of her neighbors cooked and washed for Dot’s husband and children for weeks).

Dot herself used to feed itinerant farm workers and invited children waiting at the school bus stop near her gate in for sweets. Practical, frugal, hardworking, and generous, Dot lived a quiet, isolated life. It is interesting to see that her smudged notebook contains not only her small, neat penmanship, but the hands of other women, suggesting that Dot liked to collect recipes from friends and neighbors. Their shared lives were “rich with old knowledge and individual talent.”

Enjoy a little taste of Brackenbury’s book with two sample poems and a recipe. Many thanks to Alison for permission to share her poems and for providing the wonderful photos!


photo of Dot’s notebook via The Carcanet Blog.

But you were tiny. Not one toe
could stretch from sofa to the floor.
Unwise to marry a tall man? For
the fourth child left you bed-bound, so
kind neighbours cooked. Your eyes were weak,
yet blue as harebells. You would go
sleepless, to cram old trunks with cake
the men took to the Royal Show.

I have one picture, leather-bound:
you as a young, still-anxious cook,
flowered velvet in your collar's tuck.
Like food, you could make cash go round.
Only your hair grew wild. Its fine
strong waves defied your careful buns.
French marigolds by your washing line
met cabbage, hoed by husband, sons.

You never cut your springing hair.
Time washed past you like rain, your skin
so soft a child's lips would sink in.
My face, rough from hill wind, stays bare
of blusher, gloss. No powder tins
littered your rooms. I stay up, too,
cook, type, as horizons dim.
My father said I looked like you.



Carrots kept Christmas pudding plain.
No gold leaf flattered Nottingham.
Choclate -- you wrote, brisk, young.
What sweetness touched your tongue?

Your first friends were cornflour, ground rice.
Your middle age still sang with spice,
spooned, generous to a fault.
Cinnamon. Ginger. Salt?

Steam smudged your letters. Leather Cups?
I squint. The words are: Quaker Oats.
Your trust in brand names shone.
King, Country, only one.

You knew dessert. You wrote
the old name: cocoanut.
Through bright Treacle I see
the dark Imperial tree.

A married student, money short,
I spooned rough ground rice at the start --
strong, workaday, low-cost --
like all the tastes we lost.

Christmas Pudding and Mincemeat recipes from Dot’s notebook in different handwritings via The Carcanet Blog.



There are seven recipes in Brackenbury’s book: Aunt Margaret’s Pudding, Bakewell Pudding, Flamberries Pudding, Raspberry Buns, Cheesecakes, Vinegar Cake and Quaker Oat Scones.

Aunt Margaret’s Pudding recipe from Dot’s notebook.

Dot’s original handwritten recipes are mainly lists of ingredients with minimal, if any, directions. She didn’t need to write them down since she knew them by heart. These are included along with Alison’s updated versions for the modern cook.

We decided to try the Quaker Oat Scones since we had all the ingredients on hand, including Quaker brand rolled oats. Dot’s recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon of B.P. , which I assume is baking powder since no other leavening is specified.


4 tablespoon Quaker Oats 3 (oz) of Flour
1-1/2 (oz) of sugar 1-1/2 (oz) of butter 1/4 teaspoon
B.P. pinch of salt.
Mix with milk, roll out into scones.
Bake 15 minutes in moderate oven

Alison’s updated version includes the same ingredients, with the exception of self-raising (rising) flour in lieu of plain flour + baking powder. And of course it’s easier to follow the modern day format, with ingredients presented in a list and directions numbered.

I doubled the recipe to have more dough to work with, and I managed to get 7 scones using a 2-1/2″ biscuit cutter. My scones spread more than I expected; maybe I added too much milk? If I make these again, I’ll try adding some baking powder to see if I can get more rise. Still, with only 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder in Dot’s Original Recipe, perhaps mine don’t look too different from hers.

In any case, they were lovely warm with butter, as Alison’s recipe states. I thought of Dot while eating them; there is something very special about being able to access a part of family history through a personal recipe.

Quaker Oat Scones

  • Servings: about 5 medium scones
  • Difficulty: average
  • Print


  • 4 heaped tablespoons of porridge oats
  • 3 oz/100g self-rising flour
  • 1-1/2 oz/50g granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 oz/50g butter
  • pinch of salt and a little milk to mix


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease baking tray or line with parchment paper.
  3. Weigh and sieve flour, add salt, mix.
  4. Rub the chopped butter lightly into the flour with finger tips.
  5. Stir sugar and oats into the mixture.
  6. Add milk cautiously, mixing with a knife until mixture binds in a firm ball.
  7. Turn scone dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
  8. Gently flatten with lightly floured rolling pin.
  9. Roll it out carefully until roughly as thick as the top joint of your thumb.
  10. Cut into scones with scone cutter or knife.
  11. Glaze top of each scone with a little milk or beaten egg.
  12. Place scones, evenly spaced, on baking tray and put in oven.
  13. Check after 12 minutes. They will be light gold all over when done.
  14. Eat warm with butter.
Tips: Freezing then grating the butter instead of chopping it into pieces will make it easier to incorporate with the flour. I gently flattened the dough with my hands instead of using a rolling pin.

~ adapted from Aunt Margaret’s Pudding by Alison Brackenbury (Happenstance Press, 2018), as posted at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.


written by Alison Brackenbury
published by HappenStance Press, 2018
Poetry Collection, 51pp.

*Includes Author’s Note on Dot’s Life

♥️ Learn more about Alison Brackenbury’s life and work here.


The lovely and talented Janice Scully is hosting the Roundup at Salt City Verse. Meander on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up around the blogosphere this week. Have a nice weekend!

*Copyright © 2023 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

31 thoughts on “[poem + recipe] a taste of Aunt Margaret’s Pudding by Alison Brackenbury

  1. I just love to look at old recipes and try to figure out the methods used by cooks like Dot. I would love looking through Aunt Margaret’s Pudding. Women did so much work cooking and helping neighbors and I love how you recognize and celebrate them. Those scones look very tasty!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Old recipes are fascinating to me too. Much harder for the people back then to cook without the food processors and fancy stoves we have now.


  2. Yum what a Delightfully delicious book, and mouth-savoring good to wake to! Also loved the poems,
    “Time washed past you like rain.” And
    “Your middle age still sang with spice,
    spooned, generous to a fault.
    Cinnamon. Ginger.” I might have to make some ginger oat scones and eat them with a few blackberries—mmm, thanks this lovely post and pics Jama!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A feast for sure! I’m a sucker for a charming title, too…and I adore handwritten anything, but esp. recipes. (One of my favorite projects was creating a recipe/photo/story book for my mother-in-law, from her stash and from her life. She learned to cook when she got married, and she taught me so much–not just about cooking! Miss her every day.) xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Handwritten anything is a rare commodity these days. Wonderful that you made that book for your MIL. Precious keepsake to pass down.


  4. It’s a book that must make Alison so proud, to have written it for her Grandmother Dot, Jama. I enjoyed the poem and also reading about those times long ago, the lives lived both gracious and challenging.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sadly Jama, it won’t let me buy this book because I’m not registered on their site, and when I try to register, it says “registration not allowed.” I am simply undone by techno worlds!


    1. I was able to register without any problem even though I saw the note that said, “registration not allowed.” Have you tried to fill in the info anyway?


  6. Sorry to hear that. I recommend sending an email via the contact form explaining your problems with the site. Usually Nell replies pretty promptly. Good Luck!!


  7. Sometime, Jama, please take us through your process of finding, researching, writing these amazing poets/posts! I have to say, my favorite line is “Your first friends were cornflour, ground rice.” Close second: “You knew dessert.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post! No set process — but I will say sometimes the hardest part of creating posts is finding the right poem to feature — something I feel strongly enough about to want to write about it, and a poem for which I can find/take images.


  8. Jama! I love this post. Just like so many women…I inherited a box of recipe cards from my grandmother and I cherish them. I wonder if there are some poems hiding in them too? What a wonderful post and link to a publisher I’ve not heard of before. Thank you so much!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for sharing Aunt Margaret’s Pudding with us, Jama! What a treasure! I created a book of family recipes for my husband’s family and was working on one for my maternal cousins, but got sidetracked by other projects. This post is the inspiration I needed to pull it our and finish it!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ah, my Sunday enjoyment-a visit to your blog. Of course, I am delighted to read this one because it talks about topics I love: family recipes, historic pieces, scones, and background history all rolled into poetry. Lines I love from the poem:
    Choclate — you wrote, brisk, young.
    What sweetness touched your tongue?
    Enjoy your Sunday Jama. I am bringing 2 varieties of homemade chocolate chip cookies to my sweet little granddaughters. I am babysitting them while their mother goes to the hospital to be induced with baby girl #3.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Charming through and through, and informative too!
    And not only does this book have a charming title, the publisher’s name is delightful as well. 🙂


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