,,One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating.
And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends. ,,
-Laurie Colwin

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My signature dish - Quail in forest flavor

''Every great Chef has a signature dish – one that defines their culinary point of view and highlights their particular skill set.
It’s the culinary equivalent of an artist finding their own style. Chef’s signature dish often changes with time or they may claim several signature dishes. The process of creating your signature dish takes time – so don’t skimp on the space you’ll need to put this together (in your head, your heart and in your office). Most chefs are famous for a “signature dish”, the one dish that they hang their hat on as the best in their restaurants.'' - quote from http://thewordchef.com/2012/03/your-signature-dish-how-to-create-a-program-that-sizzles/

I was once preparing quail for an event at Radisson Blue Olympia Hotel in Tallinn, Estonia for about 50 people. At this event 5 chefs, from 5 different restaurants, from the top 10 restaurants were invited to cook for food writers and food bloggers. The theme for this event was '' Modern Estonian cuisine''.
My dish was the main course and for this event I create a  special dish from organic quail with flavors from the Estonian forest.
More pictures about this event here: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.305012046194849.88676.100000581697968&type=3

A lady who was part of the organizers and who is cookbook writer, walked into the kitchen and asked me what I was preparing. I invited her to taste my quail cooked in two ways. She tasted it and really liked it. She asked me, “Is this your signature dish?” Without hesitating, I said “Yes!”
Since that day, roast quail in two ways has become one of my signature dish. Since that day I was trying to improve it.
Below is my recipe.

Roast quail in two ways with sweet potato, quail egg brioche, thyme sauce and the flavors of the forest (cranberries, almond, juniper berry, wild baby leaves salad and pickled onions)

4 quails – serves 4
Marinade as follows:
1 bunch thyme
1 small garlic clove
15 ml olive oil
12 peppercorns
1 bay leaf

Remove quail legs and thigh bones. Make a marinade by mixing all the above ingredients together. Pour it over the quail leaving it overnight in the fridge. Remove the quails from the marinade, season and brown in a hot pan on the sides.
Place the quail into oven at 180 C for 10 minutes. Check and taste often. Remove quail and allow to rest for two minutes. Remove both breasts from each bird. Season the flesh side of the breast and place the two sides together. Serve on top of the cabbage.

Sweet potato
300 gr sweet potatoes or yams
lime juice to taste
fresh cream

Peel sweet potatoes and roast on a foil-lined baking sheet in middle of oven for 1 hour or until very soft. Cool potatoes just until they can be handled and scoop flesh into a food processor. Puree potatoes until smooth. Add lime juice, cream and salt to taste and puree mixture until combined well. Sweet potato puree may be made 2 days ahead and chilled, its surface covered with plastic wrap.

Forest crumble
30 gr dry cranberries
30 gr chopped almond
30 gr dry orange peel

Mix all ingredients and keep in a dry place.

Pickled onions
50 gr (4-5pieces) fresh pearl onions
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar
juniper berry
black peppercorn
bay leaves

Peel the onions and slice in half, long way. In a pan fry the onions upside down until golden brown.
Turn onions and cook for one more minute. Add sugar, vinegar, spices and cook for 3-4 minutes until the onions is soft. Cool and reserve in a container cover with marinate.

Cranberry sauce or jam
100 gr frozen or fresh cranberries
100 gr organic pine syrup.

In a small pot just bring to boil the fresh cranberries and the syrup and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Do not over cook.

Thyme sauce
5 g thyme leaves
100 ml white wine
10 ml red wine
1 tsp sherry vinegar
1 shallot (diced)
300 ml quail stock – made from the quail bones.

Dice shallots and wash the thyme. Put red wine, white wine and vinegar in pot. Add shallots and thyme and cook until reduced to glaze. Add stock and reduce by half. Correct seasoning. Fold in butter and it’s ready to serve.

Confit of quail
8 quail legs
1-2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoon sea salt
peel from 1 orange
2 garlic cloves
1 chili
3-4 juniper berries
3-4 black peppercorns
1 kg duck fat

Into a  tray sprinkle the legs with the salt evenly over all sides, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 180C.
Wash the legs to remove the excess salt and pat dry on kitchen towels. Place the legs in a casserole or a tray, putting the legs skin side up. Add the garlic cloves, cinnamon stick, chili, thyme, star anise, orange peels, juniper berries, black pepper, and enough fat to cover the legs and place the pan in the oven. Cook uncovered, until the meat is very tender and has shrink away from the bone, around 30-40 minutes.
Let the legs cool slightly in the fat.

Quail egg brioche
4 quail eggs
sea salt
4 rings of brioche or 4 mini ready  vol au vent

Break the eggs in vol au vent baskets, season with salt cook until soft. Serve.

Enjoy! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Liquorice ice cream (Bianca)

Liquorice candies are very popular in Northern Europe, specially in Scandinavia. When I visited Norway few months ago, I saw liquorice ice cream in a shop. What caught my eyes was the color. It was black! You know it's an unusual ice cream just by the color :) But being just the beginning of spring, still cold outside, I didn't try it.
We have to be careful how much we eat, as excessive consumption of liquorice or liquorice candy is known to be toxic to the liver and cardiovascular system, and may produce hypertension and edema. You can read more about this here (wikipedia).
I forgot to say ... I love liquorice! :) Nico hates it, so since he's not here, that's a good reason for me now to make it home :)
I guess the really dark liquorice ice creams sold in the shops are dyed with black food coloring, but I didn't use any. My ice cream has a sort of greenish-gray color. Because of the color, it might be a straight NO for some people :) But, for liquorice lovers, I think it's not such a big problem, although just one ball of ice cream might be enough. Even for me! :) To temper a bit the color, I added some gold paste glaze, used in bakery. My ice cream is a bit shinny  :)

- 600 ml cream
- 300 ml milk
- 6 egg yolks
- 25 g sugar (double, if you skip the glaze)
- 200 g chopped liquorice candies ( bought a pack of All Sorts, and picked out the plain ones)
- 100-150 g Liquorice All Sorts, chopped in small pieces (all the colors)
- 80 g gold paste glaze (optional)

In a bowl, with a hand mixer, beat the egg yolks and sugar until creamy. Set aside! In a pot, over low heat, put cream, milk, plain chopped liquorice and vanilla bean. Mix continuously, without letting it boil, until the liquorice candies are melted, about 15-20 mins. Take the vanilla bean out, split it half and scrape the seeds in the egg mixture. Take the cream off the heat and little by little, pour it over the eggs, mixing it. Transfer the whole mixture back in the pot and put it again on low heat, mixing continuously until thickens, about 10 mins. Have ready a some ice-cold water bath. Take it off the heat, strain it through a fine sieve into a bowl. Now, put the bowl into the water bath, to cool down the mixture. When it's cold enough to be placed in the fridge, cover with cling film (the whole surface) to prevent a skin from forming. Place the mixture in the fridge for 1-2 hs.

After that, if you have an ice cream machine, put the cream in the machine and let it do its job :) Before you put the ice cream in the freezer, mix in the chopped Liquorice All Sorts.
If you don't have a machine, just put the cream in the freezer for at least 3 hs. But every 30 mins-1 h (depending on your freezer power) take it out and beat it with the hand mixer, to prevent ice crystal from forming. After the last beating, mix in the chopped Liquorice All Sorts.

Enjoy! ... if you like liquorice! :) Pin It Now!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Banana-Peanut butter and Blackberries Smoothie (Bianca)

It's summer, it's warm and we need to keep us cool somehow. What's better then a cold drink? And why not a smoothie? The one I had today is packed with goodies.
Peanut butter is full in monounsaturated fats, provides vitamin B3 and E, protein, magnesium.
Blackberries provide vitamin C, folic acid, vitamin K and antioxidants. Blackberries seeds also contain omega-3 and omega 6 fats, but not everybody like them. Same here, I don't prefer them :)

For banana-peanut butter smoothie
- 200 ml milk
- 2 medium bananas (sliced and frozen in advance)
- 3 tbsp peanut butter
- 2 tsp spruce shoot syrup (or agave syrup,or honey)

For blackberries smoothie
- 200 ml milk
- 100 g frozen blackberries
- 3 tsp spruce shoot syrup (or agave syrup, or honey)

Place all ingredients for the peanut butter smoothie into a blender and give it a good mix. Transfer into a bowl and keep it in freezer until you finish the other one.
Clean your blender and place in it all the ingredients for blackberries smoothie and mix well. Because I don't like the seeds, I strain it though a sieve.
Take the peanut butter smoothie out from the freezer. Into a glass, alternatively pour each smoothie to create layers.
This smoothie, being full of all those goodies, can be drunk in the morning for breakfast. But today I replaced my lunch with one glass :)   Enjoy! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rhubarb and Limoncello creamy tart (Bianca)

Rhubarb is one of the first garden products in Estonia to be harvested in the spring, but this is my first time using it this year. I decided to make a rhubarb tart, not just simple, but in combination with Limoncello, resulting in a creamy and a bit lemony tart. We've got this Limoncello bottle as a present, straight from the source, when a fellow chef from Italy visited Nico few months ago in Norway.
Although I know that Limoncello can be made at home too, I haven't try to make it, yet :)

- 250 g flour
- 30 g brown sugar
- 120 g butter (room temperature)
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 5-6 tbsp cold water

- 250 g rhubarb thinly sliced ( optional-slice few thin sticks that go on the top, around 18-20 pieces / 10 cm long)
- 200 g fresh or frozen raspberries (thawed)
- 50 g flour
- 120 g brown sugar

- 300 ml heavy cream
- 3 egg yolks
- vanilla extract
- 50 ml Limoncello
- 20 g brown sugar

Preheat the over at 180 degrees C. Butter a 25 cm round springform pan, lining it after with baking paper (bottom and sides)
Mix butter, sugar, flour and baking powder in a bowl, then add the water and mix it until the dough it's formed. It can be rolled with the rolling pin, then transferred into the pan or it can be pressed by hand straight into the spring form. I did it by hand, going up on the sides too, about 4 cm high. Refrigerate until needed.
Into a  bowl easily mix rhubarb, raspberries, flour and sugar. In a separate bowl whisk the egg yolks with sugar,  add the cream and vanilla extract, mixing until combined, then add Limoncello.
Place the fruits mixture in the pan, spreading it evenly on the bottom and then pour the cream mixture on top.
Now, arrange the rhubarb sticks on top like a flower :) Some of them will sink, but they'll come up again in the oven :)

Bake for 40-45 min, or until the top is starting to get a brownish color.
Let it cool completely before you slice it. It can be sprinkled with icing sugar.

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Watermelon, berries and Prosecco - It's summer o'clock (Bianca)

I had a bottle of Prosecco sitting in my fridge for some time now. I guess I was waiting for the summer. With so many fruits around now, it was a good reason to open the bottle for a refreshment mix :)

I usually don't like sweet drinks, so this one is no exception. But anyone that likes it sweet, can add to the drink some simple or flavored syrup.

- watermelon - about half of a medium size one
- fresh mint leaves
- fresh or frozen berries (I used frozen ones, instead of ice)
- 1 lime
- Prosecco (chilled)

Get all the seeds out from watermelon, then place the pulp into a blender. Give it a good mix. Strain through a fine sieve, so the juice it's separated from the pulp.

I ended up with a bit more then half a liter of juice.
In a glass goblet put some fresh mint leaves, 1 lime (very thin sliced) and some berries.

Pour over the watermelon juice, until you reach about half full (here you can add syrup, if you like) and top up with chilled Prosecco.
Enjoy the summer! Pin It Now!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lamb Shanks

As I always say, time spent caring for your food is time well spent. 
I've been wanting to post this recipe for a long, long time. This is my favorite braised lamb shank recipe. To cook lamb shank it takes patience. Shank it's the lower part of the leg, from the knee down. As in any animal, the most-used muscles are the toughest ones, so the shank is one of the toughest cuts you can find on a lamb. With other cuts of lamb, you can grill them, you can roast them, you can make minced meat....etc. With shanks, you must cook them in a pot with some liquid for long time, otherwise you can not eat them. In this recipe, lamb shanks are slowly cooked in the oven with fresh herbs, garlic, red wine....etc. It has a fantastic flavor and the meat just falls off the bone. It's delicious when served with mashed potatoes. Please adjust seasonings to your own individual tastes. I sometimes add chili paste to the marinade. Hope you enjoy it as much as Primo Piano restaurant (Norway) clients do.

Here is the video recipe.

                   This video belongs to TV Vestfold, Norway http://www.tvvestfold.no/program.php?video_id=2317
4 lamb shanks
750ml (1 bottle) red wine (preferably Marsala)
1 liter fresh lamb stock or beef stock
2 large onions
3 cloves of garlic 
1 sprig of thyme 
1 sprig of rosemary 
2 bay leaves 
3 star anise
3-4 dry chilies - I use piri piri
green peppercorns
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
140g shallots or onions 
150g carrots 
80g celery (1 stick)
100g bacon 
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp chopped herbs (thyme, rosemary..)

To serve: mashed potatoes and  pomegranate seeds 


With a sharp knife, cut about 1 inch from the bottom (narrow end) of the shank bones down to the bone and all the way around; this will help expose the bone while cooking. Set aside. 
Place the lamb shanks in the bottom of a casserole (or any oven-proof dish) with a lid. Add the sliced onions on top . Pour the wine and stock over the lamb; add the garlic, thyme, rosemary bay leaves, star anise, chili and peppercorn.
Marinate in the refrigerator overnight. 
Cover and place in the preheated oven to 160 degrees C. Cook for 3 hours or until the lamb is soft. Cool the lamb shanks in the sauce.
Remove the lamb from the pot, sieve the liquid into another pan, discard the vegetables.
Peel the carrots, celery and shallots and chop them into small pieces.
Heat one tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the bacon, carrots, onions, and celery until they begin to turn brown.
Add the stock and brown sugar to the pot, bring it to the boil and then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer until the liquid has reduced by three quarters and become thicker, to make the sauce.
Place the lamb back into the pot and gently reheat the lamb for about ten minutes.
Add the chopped herbs.
Here, we served it with mashed potatoes and pomegranate seeds.
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Friday, May 18, 2012

Coconut, chocolate and goji berries ice cream (Bianca)

We had few warm and sunny days, which made me craving for ice cream. By the time I decided to make it (2 days ago), the weather showed me how unpredictable it can be. But it didn't stop my craving, so here is the recipe for ice cream without an ice cream machine! :)
- 2 x 400 ml cans of coconut milk
- 120 g sugar
- 3 tbsp cacao
- 100 g dark chocolate
- seeds from 1 vanilla pod
- 100 g goji berries
Place all ingredients in a pot over a low heat and stir continuously until the chocolate has melted. I let it boil gently for about 15 min., and I kept stirring so it didn't stick on the bottom of the pan.
After I took it off from the heat, I transferred my batch in a separate bowl, added the goji berries and placed the bowl over a bath of cold water. Stirring it and changing the water few times, I got it to a fairly cold temperature. Now it could be stored in the freezer for at least 4 hours. Every 30 min or so I took it out and mix it with a hand mixer, so it didn't form ice crystals.
After 4 hours or so, I had my ice cream :)


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Monday, April 9, 2012

Double the kinder surprise! (Bianca)

We celebrate Easter this coming Sunday and I remembered that I saw on this blog some while ago these awesome filled chocolate shells and it gave me the idea with the Kinder Eggs. Kids will love this sweet treat, I'm sure :) There is no baking involved, so you might as well get the kids help you making them.

Ingredients for 6 chocolate eggs:
For the filling
100 g cream cheese ( I used Philadelphia)
1 tbsp lemon juice
50 gr powder sugar
80 ml whipping cream
vanilla extract

For yolk
1 tbsp Cloudberry jam (or apricot jam or any yellowish nectar)
1 tbsp butter
I used a tiny bit of yellow food coloring, just to bust the color.

In a small saucepan heat on low the jam and butter, until the butter is melted. Set is aside to cool (when was cold I added a dash of yellow food coloring). Place it in the fridge.
Remove carefully the top the chocolate eggs, with a warmed knife (under warm water). It will pretty much give you a straight edge. But I didn't like that, so I broke off by hand some pieces to get some uneven parts, just like in a real boiled egg. The hardest part would be to get the surprise prize out of the shell, but with care, it's possible :)

Place the eggs in an egg carton, or your fridge egg holder and keep them in the fridge, while you prepare the filling.

With a hand mixer beat together cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla essence for a couple of minutes.
In a separate bowl whip the cream until stiff and then gently fold it over the cream cheese mixture and combine until smooth.
You can fill the eggs with the mixture now, using a tea spoon or you can pipe it (then level the top to look more realistic) and place the yellow mixture for the yolk.

Keep it in the fridge for at least 30 min.

Happy Easter! Pin It Now!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chocolate Fondant or Chocolate Lava Cake

How many of you are Chocolate fondant fans? I am a huge fan. So many recipes are so good that I just can’t stop eating it! This week I am going to share two of my favorite Chocolate Fondant recipes.
Fondant is a cup of cake which has been baked for just a few minutes, the middle part of the cake is liquid and it is served hot.
''Fondant or Lava cakes have four main ingredients: chocolate, butter, eggs and sugar. The butter and chocolate are melted together, while the eggs are either whisked with the sugar to form a thick paste, producing a denser finished product; or are separated so that the egg whites can be whipped into an egg foam to provide more lift (and thus a lighter cake) when the mixture is baked.''- wikipedia
This chocolate recipes are simple, delicious and timeless. It’s crazy good and super chocolatey and never lets me down. I made so many diferent styles and recipes in my life(with orange liqueur, with mint , with cofee....) but not all are easy and fast to do.....so today I chose to share with you the simplest and the most tastiers ones.
The first recipe comes from a friend of mine chef Victor Ovtchinikov and is very safe for restaurant. It will keep in a refrigerator for 2 days.
The second recipe is my own way to look to a clasic recipe......another way of interpretations.....a chef twist. 
Chocolate fondant.
Ingredients for 6-8 portions
For fondant:
240 g dark chocolate 70%
120 g butter 82%
4 eggs
60 g caster sugar
60 g flour
For the moulds:
50 g butter, melted or backing spray
To serve:
I serve it hot with ice cream and berries or with chili ice cream ( I love it) or margarita granita recipe here.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together until the mixture leaves a ribbon trail. Mix into the chocolate and butter mixture.
Add the flour and mix to combine.

Brush 8 ramekins with a little melted butter and then dust with the cacao powder. I bake the Fondant in suffle or pudding cups....or muffin cups.
Fill the moulds with the fondant mix and leave to set in the fridge for one hour.
Cook in the oven at 200°C for just eigth (8) minutes. Leave the fondants to rest for 1 minute, and then turn out and serve with ice cream.

White chocolate fondant with mango puree and popping candy.
Ingredients for 10 portions
For fondant:
140 g white chocolate with no sugar
130 g butter 82%
6 eggs
60 g caster sugar
60 g flour
60 g desiccated coconut
For the moulds:
50 g butter, melted
50 g desiccated coconut,
To serve:
mango puree and fresh fruits
popping candy
Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together. Mix into the chocolate and butter mixture.
Add the flour and desiccated coconut and leave to set in the fridge for one hour.
Brush the ramekins with a little melted butter and then dust with the desicated coconut.

Fill the mould with the fondant mix and leave to set in the fridge for one hour.
Cook in the oven to 200°C for just eigth (8) minutes. Leave the fondants to rest for 1 minute, and then turn out and serve over the mango puree, fresh fruits and popping candy on top.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Churros (Bianca)

Churros are popular in Spain, Latin America, France, Portugal and the United States.  I was so curious about their origin, so I search the internet to see what I can find out. Well, all of the websites (including wikipedia) state that the history is divided on how exactly Churros came to exist. Some say they were invented by Spanish  shepherds. They were living in the high mountains, with no access to bakeries, so they came up with churro paste - easy to fry in an open fire. Some others say that Churros were brought in Europe by the  Portuguese sailors from Northern China, where they were called "You Tiao". They made adjustments to the technique of making them, as they couldn't learn the Chinese skill of "pulling" the dough. So, they were passing the dough through a star shaped tip.
Eventually the Churros were introduced in Latin America by the conquistadors and suffered various changes. The Spanish recipe has only flour, water and salt.   But any recipe found on the internet originated from Mexico had butter and eggs added. I even watched a video on youtube with Gordon Ramsay making Churros after the original Spanish recipe. In one of the comments there, someone was very surprised as how come Gordon, being a top chef, doesn't know that the original recipe has eggs and butter in it. He grew up in Mexico and he knows the recipe well.
Hmm ... I wanted another opinion, so I turned to my Catalan friend here in Tartu, a gourmet himself, Eneko Itziar. I asked him: ''Churros ... are they originally from Spain or Mexico, as both countries claim they have the original recipe?'' And his answer was : ''Not the first time I was asked about this :) The churros are from Spain, no doubt. There are different regions in Spain that claim to be the *inventors*, but it is said that the first *industry* of churros started in Catalunya in the XIX century. No doubt that the foggy beginning of  this recipe comes from the Arabs, as most of the *dry* or *fried* deserts in Spanish tradition. Actually what Mexican people call *churro* is what Spanish people call *porra*. The difference between these two is that the dough of the churros it's with hot water and the porra it just warmed one, to change the texture.''
After all the research, I decided to make both recipes, the Spanish and the Mexican ones :)

Spanish recipe:
- 500 ml water
- 255 g flour 
- 1 tsp salt
- sugar, cinnamon ( to sprinkle ) 
- plenty of vegetable oil for frying
Hot chocolate sauce:
- 150 g dark chocolate
- 150 ml cream

Mexican recipe:

- 530 ml water 

- 200 g butter 

- 45 g sugar

- 1 tsp salt

- 425 g flour 

- 5 eggs

- plenty of vegetable oil for frying

With the Spanish recipe I got about 18 churros, because I used my biscuits pistol to squeeze them, and they came out quite thick. With the Mexican one I got over 30!!!, but I used a pastry bag with a  Φ 10 mm star shaped tip . When I squeezed through the pistol, having eggs inside the dough, they expanded to much looking more as a thick Polish sausage and I wanted them thinner:) 

But no problem here! My brother came by right when I finished them and he said: ''Keep some - the rest are mine!'' So, no waste! :) 

Method for Spanish recipe:
Place the water and salt in a pot and bring it to boil. Then add all the flour and mix well until a consistent dough is formed. Remove from heat and continue mixing until smooth. Let the dough stand covered for about 15 min, to cool down. 
Heat the oil at 180 degrees C in a large frying pan.  Place the dough in a churrera or a pastry bag  with a star shaped tip attached and squeeze out about 20 cm long churros straight into the hot oil. Fry them until golden brown, on each side. Place them on kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil and while they are still hot, sprinkle with sugar or cinnamon sugar. Serve them immediately with hot chocolate sauce. 

Method for Mexican recipe:
Same method as the Spanish ones, just that the butter is placed in the water mix. After the butter is melted and the mixture is almost at the boiling point, place the flour and mix until the dough releases from the sides. Remove from the heat and place the dough into a table top mixer. On a low speed, mix the dough, adding one egg at a time. Leave the dough covered for about 15 min, to cool down.
These ones I chose to fill  with creme patisserie (pastry cream) mixed with chocolate, then covered them in chocolate and sprinkled them with coconut, nuts, chocolate and colored sprinkles.

Which ones I liked the most? Has to be the Mexican ones, as they are moist and soft, compare to the Spanish ones that are crunchy outside and a bit chewy inside. 
I hope Eneko won't be mad at me about this ;) 

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