Tag Archives: aubergine

Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine and spinach

13 May

Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine and spinach

 

Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine spinach

The lines between ‘going back’ and going on holiday have blurred now, after this many visits to the UAE.  My three year old has made three trips out there and now has a collection of memories and a definite sense of identification with some of our regular haunts.  Neither me nor my husband are from the UAE or have family there but to be honest almost all of the people I talk to in Dubai are ex-pats.

Whilst in Oman, Muscat I reminisced about our honeymoon in Thailand because the mountainous back group and still waters evoked those entire serene and tranquil honeymoon images in my mind. Except this time, the people we made passing conversation with were a whole world away. We met an Australian family in the kid’s club and I remarked to my husband that it was they, not a nanny with their two young daughters. Most of the other children in the kids club were accompanied by a nanny that had joined their family to the resort. Australian dad now worked in Qatar and Australian mum was fond of truffles. She emphatically told me about the school her daughters attended and how her children didn’t see race or colour because their friends were of all origins; Indian, French, Japanese. She told me several times over, which I found curious.

People like to guess where you are from when on holiday don’t they? Most of the time people assume that I am from Arabic origin, in fact this happened to me at college and university too but it’s only in the UAE that people never assume that. The entertainer in the kids club remarked on my Indian eyes and English accent and asked if I was a full time mum, for again, I was the only mum in attendance there. An Indian (as in, from India) dad dropped his two smartly dressed children who were also decorated in 24ct gold jewellery, with entertaining lady and after he left she told me that he holds a very high position in the hotel and has since moved to LA to head up operations there. She herself is from a family of 7 sisters and 1 brother in the Philippines.

My little boy likes trains, unsurprisingly and the ones in Dubai are much less congested so this made for fervent and endearing conversation. Indian chap quipped that he should be on YouTube, not the head of a leading bank like he was. My boy replied, ‘maybe when I am 17 I will.’

So, as we stood at the floor to wall screens leading into the aquarium, for shark and stingray viewing my boy patted the screen guardedly inviting the sometimes smiling and sometimes frowning creatures to swim past him. Whilst he pressed his forehead against the cold glass and chattered away about what the fish must be doing, thinking, eating and travelling from a very pink, vivacious blonde haired little girl grabbed the arm of ‘Shanti’ as she explained where she saw similar looking coral. Shanti had a really peaceful demeanour and very smooth and very dark skin on a red-green-gold simple sari so I wondered if she was from southern India. Blonde mummy tried to join in the conversation but those wide eyes were mirroring only Shanti’s imperturbable smile. I wondered if this is what happens if you get caught up in the mode of, ‘because I can have hired help I will’. Or was shanti a friend? Was she the nanny?

‘Come…’ called Shanti and held the little blond girl close as she scooped her up, posing and prompting the parents to take pictures. I don’t know if Shanti heard, but I certainly did when they said, ‘just get her in there on her own, and hold it, that’s it…’

I picked up some freshly ground Baharat spice mix at the same supermarket that I go to each time that I am in Dubai and I know there must be more authentic places but you know, it was there in a big and inviting mound of freshness. A Lebanese lady next to me told me that she uses it in rice dishes and I wondered which other medley of dishes I could use them because the key ingredients are; cardamom, cassia bark, cloves, coriander, nutmeg, all spice, peppercorns, chilies or paprika. For whatever reasons the smoky aubergine, crisp potato and smooth spinach all work with this spice for a healthy vegetarian meal. Although I picked the blend up from Dubai with lasting effect in the suitcase, the spice blend is available in UK supermarkets too.

Ingredients to serve two

3 medium potatoes suitable for roasting

1 tbsp. rapeseed oil

Two medium aubergines

One tin of chopped tomatoes

4 dessert spoons of finely chopped spinach

One large red chilli

Salt to taste

2 tsp. Za’atar spice

3 tsp.  Baharat spice

150g fresh mozzarella cheese

 

A handful of cherry or plum tomatoes, quartered

Method

  1. Cut the potatoes into even sized cubes and boil them for 7-8 minutes before draining them and letting them dry completely. Then toss them in salt and the oil before roasting them in the oven at 190 degrees for approximately 25 minutes.
  2. Roast the aubergines whole at 180 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until the inside is soft and then allow them to cool before scraping away the skins.
  3. Mix the tinned tomatoes with the chopped chilli, salt, pinch of pepper and spread them onto an oven proof dish.
  4. Combine the aubergine pulp with the Za’atar spice and a pinch of salt.
  5. Now layer on the spinach and the roasted aubergine on top of the tinned tomatoes.
  6. Once the potatoes have caught a golden colour, toss them in the Baharat spice mix before adding them on top of the spinach and aubergine.
  7. Tear the aubergine and add them to the top with the tomatoes before returning the tray to the oven for approximately ten minutes.

Aubergine ‘meatballs’ (eggless)

5 Mar

Aubergine meatballs by Deena Kakaya
There are many questions that I do not know the answer to and over time, I have learned.
I have cultured the knack of softening a response to questions like, ‘muuuum, are people that hit bad?’, or ‘it is mean to eat a fish’.
My fingers are more nibble with Google referencing to questions like, ‘Can you throw the stones from Saturn’s rings into Saturn?’
The other day, we were in the temple and as my three year old stroked my face and said, ‘I love you mum, thank you for giving me a good day’, the congregation of around a dozen people softened a bit more out of their silent prayer. He carried on with, ‘why does God sit in the sky when so many children’s are hungry’.
I have developed that customary pensive sigh and pause when friends ask me, ‘do you think his behaviour is a road blocker?’
I chant positive affirmations when students ask me during lectures; ‘why don’t I understand this?’
When people text message and ask me ‘I hope you get some rest tonight?’ I reply with thanks. I don’t tell them that I will be up till 2am.
As I type away on this post, my three year old snores next to me and a couple of stray grey hairs shimmer under the lamp. My husband is in Australia and the laundry is waiting along with Lecture preparation. I have Mango and lime water with chia seeds waiting in the fridge for me and I am reflecting on this question I get asked via social media, ‘aww, how are you coping this week? Bet you haven’t been eating properly, not fun cooking for one is it?’

Well. This is a question that I can respond to with a picture-no words needed. I eat whilst my husband is away, it is true. He eats whilst he is away too. He doesn’t sob over soggy toast and neither do I. Its great isn’t it? Though there are shortcuts and easier meals involved because I have to do the cleaning up all by my 5ft 1 inch self. There are sandwiches involved but not cold and limp ones. There are vegetarian meatballs involved and they are full of gusto. There is nothing whimpering or diminishing about them. They are healthy, mighty and juicy. They are easy and peasy. They need time though. The knack with these Aubergine vegetarian meatballs is that the aubergines must be cooked on a low flame for a long time until they are golden and soft. They won’t be golden if you add the salt and garlic too early; they’ll just be wet and icky. The meatballs are sweet but remember not to add the spices too early otherwise they will burn and it will all taste bitter. Don’t forget the lemon juice, it really helps. I have accompanied my meatballs with a tomato and Harissa sauce. It’s a gobful this meal.

Ingredients to serve 4
2 tbsp. rapeseed oil
2 large aubergines cut into small cubes (approximately 2cm cubes)
3 fat cloves of garlic
1 tsp. dried chilli flakes
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. paprika
Salt to taste
A generous pinch of black pepper
The juice of one lemon
6-7 tbsp. breadcrumbs
Method
1. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and add the aubergines. Cook them on a low flame until they are soft enough to pierce and golden brown on the outside. It took me roughly 40 minutes to get them this way.
2. Just before the aubergines are cooked add the salt, garlic, coriander and cumin pastes with the paprika and sauté for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the aubergines to cool to room temperature.
3. Put the aubergines in a food processor and add the black pepper and lemon juice and blitz them until they are almost smooth. Add the breadcrumbs and pulse until it looks like patty mixture.
4. You should be able to form equal shaped meatballs now. If the mixture is too wet add more breadcrumbs. If it is a bit dry, add a splash of olive oil.
5. Put the meatballs on some baking paper and leave them in the fridge for an hour or so, to firm up.
6. When you are ready to cook the meatballs, add a splash of oil to a non-stick pan and add the meatballs on a low flame. Cook them until they are golden brown and lightly crisp on each side.

He asked for jacket potato and beans-so I gave him black beans, smoked Aubergine, pineapple and feta on a jacket

30 Nov

sJacket potato with black beans, smokey Aubergine, pineapple and feta

I asked my husband what he wanted for dinner the other day and he said jacket potato with cheese and beans. Now, call me a food snob if you like but I don’t like the tomato sauce in the tins of baked beans. I know, I know, lots of people say that with a bit of chilli sauce or pepper they’re great with lovely melting cheese. I’m just not very keen on them and it seems like my little one isn’t either. He will eat black beans or kidney beans in a curry, but he won’t eat baked beans.

But who can blame the man for wanting a steaming hot jacket potato with a crisp and crunchy skin, fluffy clouds of soothing spud on the inside with oozy and juicy fillings? Is there anyone out there that isn’t drooling at the thought?

I know they are convenient and have some nutritional benefits, but no. I just can’t. So, following twitter conversations with Monica Shaw and Nazima Pathan I thought of a very gorgeous, balanced and flavour packed alternative. My jacket spud filling is far from boring or ordinary. It is deep with black beans, smoky with roasted Aubergine and smoked paprika, sweet with pineapple and has a kick of chilli and a tang from rice wine vinegar…lets not forget the Thai basil or salty feta on top. It’s a sigh-worthy comfort meal.

Ingredients to serve 3-4

4 medium baking potatoes
One tin of black beans
3 large tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
3 medium aubergines
150g ripe pineapple
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp minced Thai basil
1.5tbsp rice wine vinegar
1-2 red chillies, minced
2tbsp cooking oil
Feta for crumbling on top
Salt to taste.

Method
1. Wash the potatoes and dry them thoroughly with a cloth. Leave them to dry completely before drizzling them with olive oil and baking them in an oven at 180 degrees for 1.5hours. Ovens vary of course.
2. Wash and dry the aubergines and cover them in oil. Roast them until they shrivel and can be pierced all the way through. It should take 30-40minutes. Remove the Aubergine and leave them to cool. Once cool, remove the skin from the aubergines and mash the pulp to a soother consistency.
3. Skin the tomatoes by immersing them in boiling water until the skins start to split. Wash them in cold water before whipping the skin off. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and leave them to a side.
4. Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic, chilli and paprika and sauté for a minute. Then add the tomatoes, aubergine, pineapple and salt.
5. Stir in the Thai basil, rice wine vinegar and mix it all through. Cook on a low to medium flame for 8-10 minutes.
6. Once the potatoes are cooked, slit them open and top with the bean Michael and crumble feta on top.

For more comfort food recipes, check out my;

Kale, banana and red onion pakora

Asian style sweetcorn soup with chilli, cumin and coriander rice flour dumplings

Easy entertaining portobello mushrooms stuffed with creamy, spiced smoky Aubergine pulp and Beetroot.

My food onesie; ‘samosa filling’ macaroni and cheese

You can follow me on Pinterest and Google+ now

Easy entertaining portobello mushrooms stuffed with creamy, spiced smoky Aubergine pulp and Beetroot.

15 Nov
Easy entertaining portobello mushrooms stuffed with creamy, spiced smoky Aubergine pulp and Beetroot.

Easy entertaining portobello mushrooms stuffed with creamy, spiced smoky Aubergine pulp and Beetroot.

Today I, who normally feasts three times a day and devours snacks liberally throughout the day, did not each eat lunch till 3.30pm. It’s been one of those days.

My boy and I went bowling this morning with some friends. Every time I put him down he bulleted back to the front desk where they’d displayed toy cars (for which he has a relentless infatuation with) for purchase. He thought every turn was his and he performed a series of victory leaps every time he pushed the ball (not necessarily knocking the skittles down.) Any spare pockets of time were filled by him lugging balls over to me. He’s  21 months old. His friend sat sweetly on the bench until her mum picked her up for her turn.

So we came home and he didn’t want to eat, then he didn’t want his nap. Great timing, as I have the BBC Good Food show tomorrow, where I am on the Tesco interview stage and I haven’t even done my legs. Fabulous. It’s ok, I have tights…I think.

It’s so cold anyway now, who goes out without tights? I’d go out in one of those onesies nowadays. Because it’s so cold, we are tending to have cosy meals in with friends and family…we’ve got an open fireplace in our home, so we get it going, get some blankets out and just talk. This is the stuff that makes me happy. But when you’ve had days like I have had today, you probably don’t want, or simply can’t spend hours in the kitchen preparing for a meal with friends. To be honest, if I have spent a very long time preparing I feel less relaxed and able to enjoy myself.

So here is a recipe for those days where you just feel too cold and tired. You want to live, laugh, eat and be merry…without some much hard work. Of course?

Portobello mushrooms cook really quickly, which is of course fabulous when in a hurry. I roasted the Aubergine in the morning which made life a bit easier because all I had to do was scoop out the pulp, mash it and then stick all the rest of the incidents together. It was just that easy. I think it took me about 20 mins including cooking time. Go on, get your friends round…

Ingredients to serve 3

3 portobello mushrooms
500g Aubergine
75g cooked Beetroot
100g crème Fraiche
Salt to taste
3/4tsp garam masala
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp chilli powder

Method

1. Roast the oiled Aubergines in the oven at 180′ degrees until they are shrivelling and can be pierced all way through. Mine took 25 minutes. Allow the Aubergine to cool before removing the skin and mashing the pulp with a fork.
2. In a bowl, combine the Aubergine, spices, salt and crème fraiche, then grate the Beetroot into the bowl. Combine it all well.
3. Wash the mushrooms and remove the stalk. Place them onto a baking tray and stuff with the mixture evenly. Top the mushrooms with grated cheddar and breadcrumbs and place them into a preheated oven at 180 degrees.
4. Cook the mushrooms for eight minutes and serve immediately.

Smoked Aubergine polenta with sweet and spicy tomatoes on top

16 Sep

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Smoked Aubergine polenta with sweet and spicy tomatoes on top

How do you get mosquito bitten in summery Milan? I counted 38 and I am not kidding.  And how do you get lost in Milan? Both of those unfortunate and grossly inconvenient situations lead us to walking around the streets utterly famished and wearily confused.
So we, (my dear friend and I) ended up in a quiet street that was lit dimly. In blue.  My friend is rubbish in the heat.   she, who is normally composed and upbeat, moans incessantly in the heat. She moans about walking, about her feet, about being thirsty, about stupid signs and idiotic drivers and about people who walk towards her.
So I stood over her, exasperated but coaxing her into telling me what we she wants to eat. I thought she’d give me her same-old line, ‘i don’t know, I don’t care, you decide’. But you know what she told me as I was being visciously attacked by Mosquitos sent back from hell? She told me she was in love.  With a man from Manchester.
And with this, I grabbed her arm, smiled and walked into the first reasonable looking place that was wasn’t lit in blue.  This is where the polenta comes in.  Hang in there.
So we were greeted by a middle aged guy that flirted outrageously and unprofessionally with my friend.  Before he even asked us what we would like to drink, he asked if she was married.  We were clearly in no mood for this. Remember, we are irritated, hungry and we need to talk about love.
So, I ask him what is there to eat that is vegetarian. He sings to me that the meat is gorgeous and how could I not…blah blah. So I repeat the question. Sternly. And you guessed it, polenta. So, with tummies rumbling, that’s what we ordered. It was the smoothest, most light and creamy polenta ever. Really silky, airy and just addictive.
Normally polenta is cooked in water, but as you will notice, my polenta is lighter in colour and that is because it is cooked in milk.  It works because it gives it a lighter, creamier texture.  I could suck the stuff off a spoon. I’ve added smoky roasted aubergines to the polenta and it is still delicate with the cumin and coriander. Beautiful.
I do find potatoes quite heavy, and although I love mashed potatoes they make me sleepy.  Polenta won’t do that, which is another great reason to use polenta.
This dish works harmoniously with sweet tomatoes on top.  The wonderful thing about this dish is the simplicity.   A few, quality ingredients make a darn good meal.
Ingredients to serve 3-4
For the tomato topping
100g of tomatoes, I’ve used red and yellow tomatoes and washed, then halved them
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
A handful of basil leaves, shredded
Salt to taste
3/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sugar
Chilli flakes to Taste
1/3rd tsp black pepper
A couple of tablespoons of cooking oil
For the polenta
1 litre of milk
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander powder
Salt to taste
75g fine polenta
2 medium roasted Aubergines with the pulp removed and then mashed
Method
1. Start by preparing the tomato topping.  Heat the oil in a pan and shallow fry the garlic for a couple of minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes and the salt, turn them to a slow simmer.  Sprinkle in the paprika, sugar, chilli and black pepper, toss it and cook them until they turn pulpy.  It should take 3-4minutes.
3. Sprinkle in the basil, toss again, cook for a minute before turning off the heat.
4. To make the polenta, heat the milk in a large non stick pan, with the toasted cumin seeds, coriander powder, Aubergine pulp, and salt then bring it to a simmer. Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and then in a slow and steady stream pour in the polenta, whilst whisking it gently.  Give it a couple of minutes before removing it from the heat.
Serve immediately with a few shavings of cheese if you like.

A Back Pocket Recipe – Roasted and Spiced Aubergine Pulp and Ricotta Conchiglioni

21 Dec

I’m thoroughly fatigued. When I squint, my eyes feel sore.  I am reassuringly, duck-feather cushioned on the sofa at home with my feet up, blanket thrown on my legs and scented candles are flickering whilst gentle aromas of sandalwood fill my head. The fire sizzles as the flames dance and lull me to sleep, or very nearly. That glowing pulse of the wood and coal always does it for me.

Its 3pm and the sensory treat of golden, orange and red colours and fragrances are a rare treat, before a 4pm meeting.

It’s worth it though, we had fabulous company for dinner last night and we laughed and chattered until the early hours. Unfortunately for them it’s a school night and they work in the city. Oops.

So yesterday, I had some energy for meal-making, but that’s purely from the love of doing it, rather than my physical levels of get-up-and-go. But you know me, I am not one for serving up a jacket-spuds, or fajita’s (I read that under a dinner party section of a food website!)  Some of the conversation at dinner, should revolve around the food, right?  And some of the fun of it all is in the food…correct?

Luckily, I keep a few back-pocket recipes for easy meals that can form part of a casual meal that’s more than a lasagne (again).  This is a recipe which I sometimes pull out because it looks like a lot of effort (I like to flatter guests) but really isn’t…and most importantly, it tastes gorgeous.  You can’t go wrong with huge pasta shells with a good stuffing in them.  Don’t worry about aubergine sensitive people, I have found that even they love it! Win-win.

I’ve bulk-made this one for parties, small and large get-togethers and the brilliance is that you can cook ahead the components and assemble it all at the last moment.  Pull it out during this festive period and kick back…

Recipe

Serves 4-6

25-30 conchiglioni shells

 A good couple of handfuls of your favourite hard cheese (I used mature cheddar infused with pickled onions and mixed herbs)

For the stuffing

A large red onion, thinly sliced and shallow fried

3 medium sized aubergines

A 250g tub of Ricotta cheese

The spices; salt to taste, 1 ½ tsp. curry powder, 1 ½ tsp. smoked paprika, 1 tsp. cumin seeds, ½ tsp. garam masala

For the sauce

2 tins of plum tomatoes

2-3 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped

A handful of freshly chopped basil

1 tsp. sugar

The spices; ½ tsp. black pepper, salt to taste, 2 tsp. paprika

 

Method for the stuffing

  1. Lightly grease, stab and then roast the aubergines in a hot oven (pre-heated to aprox 180 degrees), until they blister and shrivel.  This should take about 40minutes.
  2. Allow the aubergines to cool, before skinning them and remove the pulp.  Smooth it out with a knife to given an even consistency
  3. Blend the red onion to a puree.  When you add this to the stuffing it will infiltrate a lovely sweetness that will help to lift the aubergine.
  4. Heat a deep pan with a couple of tablespoons of oil and then add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle. Then add the curry powder, paprika and allow them to infuse into the oil for about a minute. Don’t allow the spices to brown, they should just glow orange and red.
  5. Add the aubergine pulp and the salt, garam masala and mix through thoroughly. Stir in the sweet red onion and mix again.
  6. Let the mixture cool to a room temperature whilst you prepare the rest of it

Boil the conchiglioni until el-dente and in the meanwhile, turn your attention to the sauce. When the pasta is el-dente, drain and leave it to a side.

Method for the Tomato Sauce

  1. Heat two tablespoons of oil and then add the chopped garlic and the paprika and allow the garlic to soften for a couple of minutes on a medium heat
  2. Mix in the chopped tomatoes and the salt and simmer
  3. Stir in the sugar and the black pepper
  4. Reduce the sauce for 4-5 minutes before adding the chopped basil.

when you are ready for assembly, add the ricotta cheese into the aubergine stuffing and mix it through thoroughly.

Assembly

It couldn’t get an easier.

  1. Pour the sauce evenly between your oven dishes
  2. Take a teaspoon, stuff the pasta shells with the aubergine stuffing and place into the tomato sauce
  3. Top the trays with cheese
  4. Bake in the oven for about 7-8 minutes at 180degrees, or until the pasta is soft enogh to pierce through with a knife

See…I told you it was easy!

Quick and Easy Aubergine and Halloumi Rolls

12 Dec

It’s not often that I cheat in the kitchen – although who can blame us when we’re time strapped? I will happily grind and roast my spices, releasing each intrinsic aroma and letting them infiltrate the spirit; readymade tandoori or curry powder, while convenient just isn’t quite the same. I soak and boil pulses to ensure that the depth of fresh flavour and texture is captured and I get that thick, smooth gravy; the canned alternative may win time-points but can be juice-deprived. What are kidney beans without their rich, succulent velvet juices? I make my own, malleable and moist paneer; I find the ready-made kind can be stiff and chewy, sacrificing freshness for minutes. I create yogurt at home, so that I know it will be smooth and mild, cooling and creamy, just like it’s supposed to be. I craft the sausages for my weekend breakfast with my own fair hands and I love indulging in home-made idli or dhokla only after soaking and grinding the lentils and the rice.

But I do use short-cuts- that’s not cheating! I deploy optimal weekday solutions to address the conundrum that many of us face; that is that I need a delicious, attention-grabbing, taste-bud rousing and nutritious dinner within 30 minutes of laptop releasing, coat slinging, shoes tossing and key chucking and phone grabbing for ‘hi mum’ at 6.30pm. 30 minutes before dinner time. It’s that time frame within which my husband decides to raid the snack cupboard for low GI snacks and hummus. Hmmm…

I love this recipe because it looks like an effort has been made, but it’s oh-so-easy. It’s so delightful, I have hankerings for it. Personally, I am a girl who likes unravelling foods. You know I like stuffing vegetables and filling them and…well, you get the gist. Mouthfuls of surprises…give it a go.

I serve these rolls on a salad.  Today my salad was made of asparagus, plump tomatoes and walnuts.  They also work well for a bbq or picnic.

Aubergine and Halloumi Rolls

Ingredients

2 large aubergines, cut lengthways into long slices about 2-3cm thick

Halloumi cheese cut into 3 cm chunks

Spices: 1 tsp. cumin seeds, ½ tsp. fenugreek seeds, 1 tsp. fennel seeds

2 fat cloves of garlic, minced

7 tbsp. of red pesto (that’s the cheat)

2 tsp. smoked paprika

Method

  1. Grind the spices together to form a powder, and toast them on a hot, non-stick pan (but low flame) for a couple of minutes to release the aroma, but do not brown the spices.
  2. Combine the spices with the minced garlic and red pesto and paprika to form a tangy paste
  3. Set the slices of aubergine out in a plate and microwave them for 3 minutes. Dry off the water and then put them in the oven at 200degF until they become pliable. This should take approximately 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the aubergine slices from the oven and once they have cooled enough to become manageable, spread about 1tsp. of the paste onto the aubergine slice, put into a chunk of halloumi cheese and wrap into a parcel.
  5.  Put the rolls back into oven (at 200degF again) until they brown. This should take about 10 minutes further.
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