Trying with Tofu

wp-1488793508547.jpgWhat? Tofu Chocolate Pudding? Does that work? My initial thought was, hmm, I like tofu and I do like chocolate, but not sure about mixing those together…

And to be honest…I am still not sure.

I had a pack of silken tofu left – the one I normally use for sundubu jjigae) but no sundubu mix – so I googled some ideas on what I else could make with the tofu and came up with this recipe, a sort of mix of these two recipes.

So, how is it made?

Melt au bain-marie 120 gr dark chocolate with 60 ml water, 30 gr cocoa powder, 3 tbs sugar and 1 tbs brandy, rum or coffee liqueur, stirring occasionally . Meanwhile blend 350 gr silken tofu until smooth. Once the chocolate is all nicely melted, add the tofu and stir until all mixed. Divide over 4 glasses and chill for at least 3 hours, or overnight, in the fridge. Serve with some chocolate shavings.

But how did it taste?

Well, it did taste chocolately, but the whole texture was, hmm, a bit odd. I think that was partly because I used a hand-mixer instead of a blender for the tofu, I guess a blender would have made it a bit silkier. It was certainly edible, but not a complete pleasure if you get what I mean. And I do think that puds should be pleasurable so not sure I will try making this again.

Btw, I just love this Droste Cocoa packaging with the nurse holding a tray with a packet of cocoa with a nurse holding a tray and so forth (sorry the photo isn’t better, but check out the image here). Apparently the effect of a picture appearing within itself is known as mise en abyme in art, also known as the Droste effect. It was named after Droste for this illustration. Plus it is pretty good cocoa for baking!

Have you tried any sweet recipes with tofu and were they successful? Looking forward to hear your experiences in the comments!

 

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Dakbokkeumtang

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Korean spicy chicken stew!

This is one of those dishes that it’s so easy to make at home, although it needs to cook/simmer for an hour, the ingredient preparation will only take a few minutes.  I often eat it in the winter as it’s spicy and comforting but I was suddenly craving some so made it this week.

There are lots of recipes available but this is how I made it

  • In a casserole / heavy bottomed pan, mix the seasoning:
    • 3 tbsp gochugaru  (Korean red chili pepper flakes) with 3 tbsp gochujang (Korean red chilli paste).
    • Add 5 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbs sesame oil and 1 tbs brown sugar or honey.
    • Add 3 minced garlic gloves or a tbsp of garlic paste
    • optional add 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • Add your chicken pieces to this mix. You can use a whole chicken chopped into pieces or even fillets only, but I like to use drumsticks and/or thighs. You will need about 1 kg
  • Add 2 medium onions, roughly chopped and 1 liter water
  • Stir and bring to the boil. Once boiling reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes
  • Clean 4 medium potatoes and 3 carrots and cut into large pieces. Add to the pan, bring to the boil again, reduce heat and simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Add some chopped green/spring onions just before serving with rice.

(If you prefer it spicier you can add more gochugaru or some chopped chillies)

My banchan (side dishes) were very simple but did include some home made cucumber kimchi!

 

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Haemul Pajeon 해물파전 (seafood pancake)

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My attempt at making Haemul Pajeon 해물파전!

I love this Korean pancake made with green onions (pa) and seafood (haemul) and often order it in Korean restaurants. It always appears on the table perfectly golden and crispy but recreating this at home proved to be a bit tricky….

There are lots of amazing Korean food bloggers that I look at for recipes but unfortunately for this dish I found quite a bit of variations in the recipe/method, especially in which flour is used for the batter and how the ingredients are mixed/the order in which they are used.

Maangchi, often my first go-to-source, has a pajeon recipe with the shortest ingredients list. Seafood only gets mentioned halfway as an optional addition and her batter is quite plain although she does use soybean paste (and sugar) for flavouring.  There is no addition of egg and she uses plain flour whilst others seem to recommend cake flour, rice flour or a ready made Korean pancake mix.

If I understand Hyosun from Korean Bapsang correctly, Korean pancake mix can be easily made by mixing flour with rice flour/corn starch and some flavouring like garlic and ginger.  Nami from JustoneCookbook  uses cake flour which seems to be a mix of flour with corn starch .  The ladies from CrazyKoreancooking use the ready mix or plain flour  and JinJoo from Kimchimari uses a mix from plain flour with different rice flours. She also uses anchovy stock to flavour the batter and is the only one who adds seasoned minced beef to this dish (and minari).

The reason for all these variations in flour seems to be to ensure a crispy result. Apparently the gluten in normal flour can give a doughy result which makes sense I guess thinking of French crepes and English pancakes.

Aside from the flour, the other big difference is how the ingredients are mixed/ in which order they are being used.

After mixing the batter, some recipes add the seafood to the batter itself whilst other add it later. Some mix the egg into the batter as well, others add it almost to the end. The green onions go into the pan first, or on top of the batter. (It is even mentioned that you could also mix all the ingredients together instead of layering it separately).

The main ingredients all seem to be the same though, a batter (preferable to contain some rice/cornstarch), green onions, seafood, water, oil and an egg. Optional flavourings are chilies, ginger, garlic and salt.

It’s worth exploring all these different recipes and see what works out best, but as I only had limited time (and ingredients), I went ahead and used Maangchi’s and Kimchimari’s recipe as my main inspiration.

I don’t have any precise quantities but this is what I used:

  • The batter: I mixed equal amounts of glutenfree flour with water. To this I added a tablespoon of cornstarch plus an egg and mixed well until a smooth and fairly thin batter.  I also added a pinch of dried ginger, garlic and salt to it. (The amount of batter shown in the photo is way too much, I only used about a third of it).
  • Green onions: cleaned and cut to size to fit into a frying pan. I also halved them lengthwise.
  • Seafood: I use a mix of (defrosted frozen) seafood which I chopped up roughly as I prefer smaller pieces in my pancake.
  • The dish on the left has the dipping sauce, prepare this before you start frying your pancake as you want to eat the pancake as soon as possible whilst still hot & crispy! I make mine from equal quantities soy sauce, vinegar and water, a little bit of sugar and some finely chopped green onion. I also like to add a drop of sesame oil.

How did I make it?

  • Heat up some vegetable oil in a frying pan (medium to high heat) and add the green onions. Press down so that it has maximum contact with the bottom of the pan
  • Add the seafood on top of the onions, dividing it evenly
  • Poor the batter over this, make sure any holes are filled but don’t cover the onions/seafood completely. A thick batter will take longer to cook, making it tough and doughy.
  • Continue to fry, lower heat if needed, until the batter seems almost cooked on top. Turn over carefully  and fry the other side for a further 2-3 minutes until fully cooked.
  • Serve with dipping sauce!

Mine was delicious but not crispy enough so I guess I will have to experiment a bit more and make this again 😛

 

Have you made this at home? Any tips on how to get it extra crispy? Looking forward to hear from you in the comments 🙂

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Caramelised red onion tart tatin recipe

Did you know it is National Vegetarian Week? To be honest, I didn’t… until OddBox told me about it and asked if they could share my recipe for the tart tatin I made with the red onions from their home delivery box.

As some readers might remember, OddBox  provides us weekly with wonky veg & fruit, ie veg & fruit that gets rejected by supermarkets because it is odd shaped or surplus. I wrote about some perfectly fine but odd shaped beets in a previous post, and since then we have been receiving loads of funny looking but delicious tasting items like these cute strawberries.

The red onions in last week’s box were rejected because they were too small! So silly as it made them the perfect size for this amazing tart tatin. I made it on Sunday for a late lunch and it was so good, we “inhaled” it in about 15 minutes flat 😛

Contrary to baking where I measure/weigh each ingredients, my cooking is more random. I do look at recipes for inspiration/guidance but then just follow my own instincts and taste and usually it works out pretty well. Because this tart was so amazing, I did write down how I made it and am sharing it with you.

Caramelised red onion tart tatin
 
Ingredients:
  • Red onions, small to medium size.You will need as many as you can fit in your pan + 2 more.
  • Butter (generous knob)
  • Vegetable oil about 1-2 tbsp
  • Balsamic vinegar about 3-4 tbsp
  • (Golden) sugar about 3 tbsp
  • Thyme, a sprinkle
  • Water about 3 tbsp
  • Puff pastry, 1 pre-rolled sheet or 2/3 of a block (you could of course make your own puff pastry, but I can’t be bothered with all the faff. And even Mary Berry says she buys it, so if the Queen of Baking says shop bought is fine, who am I to argue with that! I do buy an all butter version though).
How to make:
  • Melt the butter and oil in a low, oven proof, casserole or oven proof frying pan on a medium heat. I use a 23cm creuset casserole but anything with a heavy bottom, flat top and suitable for hob & oven is good.
  • Peel and cut the onions in half crosswise, ie the rings will be showing. Add to pan with cut side down, make sure you cover the whole bottom pan.
  • Pan fry gentle until slightly browned, for about 15 min. The onions will shrink slightly, so this is the time to add the extra onions!
  • Sprinkle sugar & thyme over the onions, add the balsamic vinegar and water. Cover with some foil or lid and reduce heat to fairly low. Let simmer for another 20 minutes.
  • Remove foil/lid and turn up heat slightly to reduce the liquid until it’s almost gone and sticky but take care you don’t burn the onions. Meanwhile also preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
  • If you use a block puff pastry, roll out to a circle that is a bit larger than the pan you use. If you use a ready sheet, just cut out to size. Larger is better than too small.
  • Turn off heat and place pastry on top off the onions, tuck the pastry nicely in between the onions and around the sides.
  •  Place in the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until pastry is crips and golden
To serve
  •  Remove pan from oven and rest for 10 minutes
  • Place a completely flat and sturdy plate/board on top of the pan, take a deep breath and flip the pan over whilst holding the plate firmly against the pan.
  • Don’t worry if any onions have stuck to the pan, you can just place these on the pastry tart.
  • Optionally sprinkle some fresh thyme, feta or goat’s cheese over the tart tatin and serve whilst still lukewarm.

 

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Carrot men eating my lunch…

imageHelp, my lunch is being eaten by the carrot men!

Made a very quick lunch today and thought to add some fun by punching out these little men out of some carrot disks. I have not really gotten around to make a lot of bento recently. Partly that’s because I am so busy with decorating this year’s Christmas cakes. I made 4 (!) which will all be decorated differently and although it’s fun to do, it does take a lot of time. I’m hoping to post a photo of them all before Christmas. Currently no 2 is finished and have started on no 3….

Another reason why I haven’t been making a lot of bento is because I have been eating a lot less rice in recent weeks. Since winter has started, and temperatures dropping, I have been craving lots of comfort food like stews and oven dishes. Although I did make some Korean comfort food like Sundubu Jjigae, most other food has included potatoes and pasta. My taste buds seem to work that way, some months can go by without me eating any pasta at all, but than suddenly all I seem to want is spaghetti, macaroni cheese and lasagne! The same for potatoes, for the last weeks I’m yearning for mash, mash and more mash!  At some point my taste buds will call out for rice again, but for the moment I am indulging them.

However, even potatoes can be turned into a lunch, and I have packed them in the past, like with this Gamjajorim dish. Today’s lunch had potatoes in the form of a tortilla, always easy to make,  it can be prepared in advance and you can use up any left overs you have.

Recipe: Heat some oil in an non stick, oven proof, frying pan and add your filling of choice. I used onion, potatoes and garlic sausage. Fry for a few minutes until lightly coloured, whilst stirring regularly, and until potatoes are halfway cooked. Preheat oven or grill. Beat 2-3 eggs with some seasoning and add to frying pan, making sure the filing is evenly distributed. Fry for a minute more until slightly set and finish off under grill/in oven until firmly set. Can be eaten warm, tepid or cooled down and cut in pieces for your lunch 🙂

 

Avocado salad and corn fritters recipe

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Today’s lunch was another healthy one… at least… until I mixed in the goat cheese and bacon 😛

The Sistema lunch box was used again again, and the big compartment holds an avocado salad. Very simple, just cubed avocado with sliced cucumber and scattered with crispy bacon and some goat cheese. Delicious! I also added some radishes, blueberries, tomato and some corn fritters to my lunch.

I quite like corn, especially corn on the cob with lashings of butter and salt, but often forget about this vegetable. I guess it’s because – other than the corn on the cob when in season – you don’t really see fresh corn in the shop, mostly it’s tinned or frozen. I keep tins, cans, unopened packets of flour, pasta and such in our utility kitchen, so I tend to overlook these when cooking. The other day I had to rearrange the shelves (to fit in another few kilo of flour for all my baking..) and discovered 4 tins of corn, so I thought up these corn fritters to make.

There are probably plenty of corn fritter recipes out there, I didn’t really look any up but just sort of guesstimated a recipe/method. Basically I blitzed 3 small tins of corn in the food processor, together with some green onions, 2 eggs and 2 heaped tablespoons of SR flour into a rough batter. I added another tin of corn to this mixture and seasoned it. Then I just fried large spoonfuls of the batter in a lightly greased frying pan and that’s it. Quick and easy.  The mixture made quite a few so I froze several ready for packing in my lunches.

These can be eaten hot, cold or at room temp. You could also pack them frozen (it will keep your lunch cool) and just reheat in the microwave. Anyway, not really a recipe but you sort of get the gist of how these were made. All kind of variations are possible, adding herbs, or maybe some chili peppers would be nice, something to try out next time 🙂

 

Yaki onigiri

Yaki Onigiri

Some left over rice turned into a simple but tasty snack: Yaki Onigiri!

Yaki means grilled, and Onigiri is a rice ball. Usually Onigiri are filled with all kinds of ingredients and/or wrapped in seaweed, but instead of filling, a Yaki Onigiri is grilled on a BBQ and brushed with soy sauce or miso.

Instead of a BBQ, I am using a heavy duty frying pan to obtain the same effect. First I shape the rice into triangles, making sure I really press the rice firmly together as otherwise it will fall apart later.

I then fry each side for a few minutes in a little oil on medium heat.  You can use vegetable oil or even butter but I like add some sesame oil to plain vegetable oil to enhance the flavour. After each side has crisped up – this usually takes a few minutes, avoiding to turn too often, I brush some soy sauce on each side before frying a further minute until done. Instead of soy sauce you could also use miso paste or even BBQ sauce!

I like eating Yaki Onigiri with some pickles.

 

Mango Sorbet

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Whilst most of the UK population is enjoying the sunshine outside, I have to confess that I have been hiding indoors to escape the heat!  Don’t get me wrong, I do like the sun, but all in moderation and the temperatures that we had this week here in London are just a bit too high for me.

However, it was a great reason to use up those mangoes I had and turn them into mango sorbet.

We have a biweekly vegetable and fruit box delivery, and although there is the option to have a “surprise” box, sometimes I opt to pre-select my choices and order a custom box. So, I was a bit surprised to discover two mangoes in the box instead of the two avocados I had ordered! They were very green mangoes…so I guess the person who packed them isn’t very familiar with either….

mango

Anyway, the mangoes were very green, ie unripe, so I just stored them in the brown bag until they were nice and ripe to be used this weekend.   I have never made mango sorbet before, but a quick google learned I only need mango (✓), sugar (✓) and water (✓). And an ice cream maker….Hmm… definitely lacking an ice cream maker, but apparently you can make it by hand as well, just a little bit more work.

So, first, I peeled the mango and roughly cubed it, before blending it into a smooth puree.  The recipes I found online all indicated a 4:1 ratio puree and sugar syrup. My puree was just over 500 grams, so I made a simple syrup by dissolving 125 grams of castor sugar into 125 ml of water. Mixed up the two together, transferred to a metal bowl (to speed up the freezing process), covered with some cling film and popped into the freezer.

For the next 4-5 hours I took out the sorbet every 45 minutes or so, and stirred the mixture. For the first hours, the mango sorbet just changed from very fluid to a sort of slushy mixture, but after 2 hours it started to turn slowly into a sorbet, mainly along the sides of the bowl. In the end it took almost 6 hours to more or less freeze enough to transfer to sorbet from it’s bowl to it’s container and another night until fully scoop-able.

Lovely and refreshing!

 

French Macarons

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Some more baking. Not sure if anyone noticed but I changed the subtitle of my blog to better reflect what I am blogging about. Next week it will be back to bento lunches again 🙂

Sometimes I can get a bit obsessed with something and macarons has been my latest obsession. I just wanted to be able to make them, not for any particular reason, but they look cute, they are ridiculously expensive to buy and of course because I love eating them.

So I googled and read lots about French macarons, Italian macarons, eggs aging, whipping, over-whipping, folding, over or under folding, feet, hollow shells, cracks and ….sigh…it got all very confusing. Lots of websites and bloggers seem to have their own fool-proof recipe but unfortunately lots of them also seem to be contradicting each other…

Anyway, I thought, let’s just give it a try and made some a few months ago…total failure. Never mind, try again… and again failure (luckily the good thing is that even failures taste very nice)…I think the problem, or my problem was, that although I followed a recipe, I didn’t make proper notes of what I did – and consequently of what went wrong (no feet, over-baked, cracking all over).

Last week I had some time off, and dedicated a full day (!) to macaron making. A friend of mine gave me two very useful links  (here and here) and her own recipe, and with a few small twists, I managed to make some pretty perfect macarons! There are still a few bumps, some pointy tips and a few cracked shells (obviously I chose the prettiest ones for the photo) but they have feet (!), are nicely risen and evenly sized, and they taste good!

I made three small batches, noting down for each batch the ” what/how/how much/temp” which resulted in those lovely macarons of the photo.  The ones with stripes was the first batch which coloured a bit too brown in the oven. For the second batch I added some food colouring to make them light pink and for the third batch a bit more), to make them pink(er).

I can’t promise this recipe works for you (or whether it will work for me next time*), as everyone’s kitchen, equipment and technique will be slightly different, but this is what I did:

  • Blitz 60 gr ground Almonds with 115 gr icing sugar in a food processor (use pulse option to avoid overblitzing) and sieve. Repeat this twice. With the last sieve, discard the big lumps.
  • In a spotless bowl, whisk (I used the balloon attachment on my hand mixer) 70 gr of egg white (I used pasteurised eggs at room temperature) with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar for 30 seconds on low speed until frothy. Up the speed to medium high for 2 minutes whilst slowly adding 35 gr castor sugar. If you want to add colouring, add now. Whip for a further 3 or 4 minutes until stiff peaks.
  • Add your almond/icing mixture to the egg whites and fold in carefully with a spatula. I added the mixture in 4 batches and used about 10 folds for each batch plus a few more until the batter drops like lava from the spatula. Under mixing is better than overmixing! Read my notes on folding further down.
  • Transfer to piping bag with a 1 cm round tip and pipe your macarons on your baking sheet covered with baking parchment. Using a template is recommended, it’s much easier and makes even size shells… I used the one provided here.
  • The recipe above makes for 40 shells, so I piped 1 large sheet with 32 and a smaller sheet with 8.  (I baked the smaller sheet first, this helped me to check the oven temp and timing).
  • RAP/TAP those sheets. Whack the air out of your shells by rapping/tapping your baking sheet against a flat surface. This helps to get rid of air bubbles.
  • Rest your macarons. Whilst resting the macarons (until the tops are no longer tacky) I preheated my (fan)oven to 140C.
  • I baked the macarons for a total of 15 min, on the lower rack.  First I baked them for 8 minutes, then I turned the sheet around and baked for a further 7 min.
  • Remove from oven and let them cool down on the baking sheet for 10 min, transfer to a rack for further cooling down.
  • Fill with filling of choice…and wait….
  • and wait…
  • Unfortunately, after all that work, macarons are at their best if you let them mature with the filling for at least 24 hours. (Best to do this in an airtight container in the fridge).
  • When you want to eat them, take them out of the fridge and let them get at room temperature.
  • Enjoy!!!

Some notes:

  • I couldn’t seem to get my egg whites whipped until super stiff peaks, mine kept being a bit “droopy”. I read somewhere that this is partly because of using cream of tartar which apparently stops over-whipping. I whipped until the egg white had semi stiff peaks and “clumped” in my balloon whisk;
  • Colouring macarons. My first shells coloured slightly brown, so for my second batch I added a heavy baking sheet on the top rack, which seemed to help. Better yet, I added some food colouring paste to my second and third batch. I am happiest with the colour of my third batch, they turned out really pretty.  (After baking, I used some raspberry coulis to add some colour stripes to the first batch of shells).
  • Folding: I felt this is the trickiest part. Make sure you watch a few videos to see what the consistency should be. I found the description and video of Joy of Baking very helpful.
  • Filling: I filled mine with raspberry buttercream. Just make a plain buttercream but instead of using milk to “loosen up”, add some raspberry coulis.
  • Maturing and storing: macarons taste best if you let them mature with the filling for at least 24 hours… They keep very well for up to 5 days in an airtight container in the fridge and you can also freeze them.
  • I didn’t make many photos during the process but below a few photos of the  “peak” and “clumped” stiff egg whites and of the mixture when ready for piping. (I just noticed I made the photos at different batches so the colours don’t match..)

 

* I actually made 3 more batches after this day, with mixed results. For one batch I doubled the ingredients and I used a non stick liner instead of baking parchment. Both were not a good idea. Firstly, despite doubling the ingredients it made less shells, partly because it was more difficult to handle the fuller piping bag. And non stick liner…perfectly fine for other stuff but my macarons shells stuck! They were still nice (filled with chocolate ganache) but not photo worthy.

The other two batches I made were better, although the Violet food colouring I used faded a bit whilst baking and the shells didn’t want to rise fully, but the pink batch turned out perfectly. I packed some of these in a gift box I made for friend.

Happy Easter (cake)

easter cake

Made this Easter Cake this week for the office.

It is a standard Chocolate Victoria Sponge – my non fail recipe uses 225 gr butter and 225 gr castor sugar creamed together, with 4 large (UK size) eggs, 175 gr selfraising flour, 50 gr Dutch cacao, a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder added. This cake mixture is divided over two 8 inch baking tins and baked (in preheated oven 180C) for 25 min.

To turn it into a Easter cake, I choose some chocolate finger biscuits*, mini chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies and of course those two cute chicks.  I also made a double batch of vanilla buttercream (300 gr butter, 600 gr icing sugar, 1 tbs vanilla essence). This I divided over two bowls, approx 2/3 left plain, and to 1/3 I added a few drops of green food colouring.**

After the baked cakes had cooled down properly, I used the plain buttercream to sandwich the cakes together and to crumb coat the cake. Crumb coating is done to seal in any crumbs, usually before adding a fondant layer but even when not using fondant, I feel it makes it easier to decorate the cake further. I let this crumb coat “stiffen” up a bit in the fridge, before adding a second layer of buttercream to the sides of the cake, which I used to attach the chocolate fingers. Once the cake was completely surrounded, I tied up with a little ribbon.

For the grass I used a special grass piping nozzle (Wilton 233). I can’t pipe buttercream and make photos at the same time, but it’s pretty simple a matter of placing your filled piping bag at a right angle to the top of the cake, squeeze and lift – with releasing the pressure on the bag whilst lifting. Make sure you vary the “length” of the grass a bit for a natural effect (i.e. like someone was too lazy to mow the lawn…).

Finally I added some mini chocolate eggs and bunnies. Initially I was going to put the bunnies on top of the cake as well, but the container I used for transporting this cake isn’t deep enough, so now the bunnies are standing “guard” outside the cake – attached with a little left over butter cream.

They were rather useless guards though as they got eaten… as did the cake 🙂

 

*alternatively you can use Kit Kat. I used Cadbury’s chocolate fingers, 2 1/2 packs were needed for a 8 inch cake.

** this makes a lot of icing! You can store leftover buttercream in the fridge for a couple of days, or even freeze it. I used the leftover icing for another cake I had made for OH’s office.

 

Oh, and this is how the cake looked when cut

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