A first for Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream, for the June BSFIC challenge I was able to offer a prize for my favourite entry, courtesy of Philips.

Although the weather has really not lived up the best June can offer, I set a theme of fruit in the hope of cooling recipes featuring nature’s sweet bounties.

In the order they were posted, here are June’s delicious entries. Continue to the end to find out which blogger won the prize!

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Georgina’s blog, Culinary Travels, is one I have been following for a long time. I’ve long enjoyed her mix of content and writing style as well as the great banner design too. She was the first to enter this month’s BSFIC with her delicious and summery strawberry mascarpone ice cream. I’m in full agreement with Georgina when she says she cannot abide artificial fruit flavours which taste nothing like the actual fruit. The best way to avoid that is to use real fruit and keep the recipe simple, to allow the fruit to shine.

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When Jo from Comfort Bites read the June BSFIC theme she was determined to use a fruit that’s not normally used in making ice cream. And also one that would combine well with white chocolate, as she’s been enjoying cooking with it lately. As she pushed a squeaky trolley around the supermarket, inspiration came when she saw the nectarines and she imagined the sweet, scented fruit against cold, creamy white chocolate. Her white chocolate and nectarine ice cream uses a custard base with the white chocolate and pureed cooked nectarines rippled through at the end of churning.

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Julia from Something Missing came across BSFIC when searching the web for ice cream ideas and decided to get involved herself. Her blog came about when a friend had to alter her diet due to food intolerances and Julia set out to create suitable recipes. Her pineapple and coconut semifreddo is a dairy free recipe, using coconut milk instead of cream or milk and puts me in mind of a refreshing pina colada cocktail. She lifts it with the addition of fresh mint too. And this is a no-machine no-churn recipe, so ideal for those of you who don’t have ice cream machines.

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Inspired to learn that in East Asia avocado is more commonly used in sweet rather than savoury desserts, I found a recipe on the ‘net that I just had to try. As avocado is high in (mono-unsaturated) fat the finished avocado ice cream is beautifully smooth and creamy. Unusually (for me), I didn’t add any alcohol to the recipe, so it does freeze hard rather than remain soft scoop, but it feels wonderfully soft in the mouth. This one will definitely make you re-evaluate how you eat avocadoes!

Like us, Laura from How To Cook Good Food grows her own fruit and vegetables in her garden and allotment plot. The strawberries she planted last year have reappeared. Although hers aren’t ripe yet, they inspired her entry this month, for which she made strawberry and elderflower ice cream. For the ice cream, Laura used a Nigella recipe with a custard base and lots of ripe strawberries. To that she added homemade elderflower cordial, made using a recipe from Lavender & Lovage blog.

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Michelle from Food, Football and a Baby made me smile as she recounted her young daughter’s words of wisdom before sharing her recipe for mango lassi creamsicles. The recipe was a happy accident – Michelle had planned to make mango lassi ice cream, but on realising she’d forgotten to freeze her ice cream bowl in advance, she poured the prepared mixture into lolly moulds instead. She added a bit of spice by adding green cardamom to her base of mango pulp, plain yoghurt, cream, sugar and lemon juice. It sounds both luxurious and refreshing!

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After losing their sweet dog, Holly, Dom and his partner have been in mourning, grieving for a pet that was a much loved member of the family. After posting about his loss, Dom was overwhelmed by the sympathy and support he received from his online friends, and the first half of his entry is a heart felt thank you to all the comfort those voices have given. The rest of his post is a very pretty blueberry ripple ice cream. The blueberries give the ice cream such a pretty purple colour!

Strawberry and Pomegranate Frozen Yogurt

Phil from As Strong As Soup has shared an adult version of the strawberry ice cream he loved as a child. His strawberry and pomegranate frozen yogurt promises a balance of sweet and sour flavours that better suits an adult palate, and it has the added benefit of being healthy too. He serves it with beautifully shaped home made tuiles, adding sesame and sumac to give a sweet and sour balance once again.

Clementine Granola with Pastis a l'ancienne

Solange from Pebble Soup offers another grown up concoction with her clementine granita with pastis. The final recipe was one of those serendipitous successes when a missing ingredient leads to a substitution which gives a result so delicious, it must surely be better than the original? Having no star anise in her spice cupboard, Solange turned to pastis instead, for a variation on aniseed flavour. A reduction in the volume of sugar lead to a solid block instead of a sorbet, but again, Solange adapted, and scraped it into a perfect granita instead!

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Karen from Lavender and Lovage has been enjoying home grown redcurrants and blackcurrants lately, and decided to use some to make this vibrant blackcurrant sorbet. Although this recipe can be made with just a freezer, a container and a fork Karen is very happy to have an ice cream machine to make the job easier! Her recipe also includes an optional measure of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) for a more decadent adult version.

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For her delicious recipe, Sarah from Sarah’s Kitchen Diary has not only specified the fruit, but which variety to use too. Her pink lady apple sorbet makes full use of this sweet, juicy variety and also results in a beautiful pastel pink colour which looks beautiful against the sprig of mint she added for presentation. If you use other varieties of apples, you may need to adjust the quantities of sugar and lime juice added, to achieve your preferred balance of sweet and tart.

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Victoria, the author of Eat Tori, likens the idea of her frozen cherry soufflé to “images of  butterflies, gambolling through sun deckled woods and women [..] dressed by bluebirds”! The recipe (minus a call for cochineal) comes from her grandmother’s 1937 fantasy menu found in a hand written recipe book Tori kept after her grandmother’s passing. To add a little retro glamour, Tori finished the frozen soufflés with cherries and chocolate biscuit crumbs.

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The recipe submitted by Sharon from Smithy Craft also came about somewhat serendipitously. After making proper ginger beer, she was left with a bowl of sliced lemon and chopped ginger that was crying out to be used rather than thrown away. She added sugar and water, simmered it for a few hours until thick and put it into the fridge to use later. Inspiration came when she was making some vanilla ice cream and thought to add some of the syrup to make it into a lemon and ginger ice cream instead.

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Miss South, one half of the sister-brother team who write North South Food, has taken another trip down memory lane to find inspiration for her rhubarb surprise ice cream sandwiches. She tells us all about the sliders (ice cream sandwiches) of her childhood, remembering with particular fondness the one with a flake embedded in the ice cream. Wanting to make a more grown up version, but retain that element of a hidden surprise, she put a stick of poached rhubarb inside each ice cream sandwich.

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Liz from Me And My Shadow has been thinking of ways to use the elderflower and rhubarb cordial she made recently. One such idea is her refreshing elderflower and rhubarb granita. This is a great recipe for those without ice cream machines as all you need is a freezer, a container, a fork and a little patience! Also in the post are recipes for elderflower and rhubarb custard tarts and elderflower and rhubarb Turkish delight!

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Ren from Fabulicious Food is all about simple, seasonal recipes which deliver on flavour. Her very berry cherry sundaes combine a fresh cherry compote with strawberry ice cream for a quick and elegant dessert, but the compote could also be rippled through your chosen ice cream before freezing or enjoyed with natural yoghurt for a healthy but decadent breakfast. I love the way Ren’s added some fresh cherries to the sundaes too.

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Bree recently founded the Goldtoast Supper Club and blogs at her site of the same name. In her post she laments the lack of use her poor ice cream machine gets, whilst she dreams but never makes anything in it! Her first thought for this challenge was a green apple sorbet but instead she settled on lime and pomegranate ice cream. Pomegranate is a fruit I love but have never seen in an ice cream, and I love the idea of balancing it with the lime. Topping the ice cream with fresh pomegranate to serve looks so pretty.

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It’s no secret that I love mangoes, especially alphonsos (and kesars and other honey mangoes). I’m not such a fan of the big fat round ones, though I’ve used them to good effect when I’ve been given them. But the ‘lesser mangoes’, as I’m wont to think of them, can be made to shine by using them in desserts, just as Caroline from Cake, Crumbs and Cooking has done in her bright mango and passionfruit sorbet. As she says, it’s a guaranteed way to bring a little sunshine into your kitchen! Her post is also a great introduction to Lola’s Ice Creams and Sundaes by Morfudd Richards.

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Kristin from Kapora’s Journey has never entered a blog event before, so I’m honoured she’s chosen this one as her first. She’s submitted her recipe for banana peach frozen yoghurt which she made without an ice cream machine, so once again, a reminder that you don’t need fancy equipment to take part. With a cold doing the rounds, everyone in the house was feeling a little stuffy and tired but this healthy fruit and yoghurt dessert went down well.

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Jenny from Bake has a boyfriend who insists that only Kentish strawberries should be bought and consumed in their household, so committed is he to their superior taste! So, to make absolutely sure of the provenance, a trip to a local pick-your-own farm was on the cards. With her ruby red haul, Jenny first made a Heston ice cream recipe before rippling strawberry sauce through it. The result is her vanilla and cinnamon ice cream with spiced strawberry ripple.

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It’s lovely to read that Donna from Beating Limitations has completely migrated away from store bought ice creams in favour of home made, as a result of participating in my monthly challenges. Donna really likes knowing exactly what’s in the treats she consumes, such as the 400 grams of sugar in the salted caramel she made recently! But her strawberry froyo recipe is far less naughty, and very easy too, made from just two ingredients – strawberry jam and Greek yoghurt.

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Deb from Supper and Scribbles has gone for a seasonal affair in her rhubarb, strawberry and anise sorbet. Like many of us, she is determined to enjoy British fruits in their season, and she picked up her two main ingredients directly from a local farm. The addition of star anise gives a light and fragrant extra flavour without overpowering the fruit. As Deb and her husband are regular ice cream and sorbet makers, I’m looking forward to more entries from her direction in coming months.

The competition closed at midnight (GMT) on the 28th but I am including 2 late entries for the event in this round up:

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Archana from Tangy Minds created a strawberry ice cream with pistachios for her daughter using this no-machine recipe.

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Jennie from Things I Eat made not one, not two but three fruitastic recipes: mango and chilli sorbet, coconut ice cream and lime sorbet.

 

And the winner is…

Phil from As Strong As Soup and his strawberry and pomegranate frozen yogurt! I asked Pete to help me choose a winner, which was tough, as the competition was really strong! Both of us agreed that we liked Phil’s recipe ideas, his photographs and the simple clear way the recipes are presented.

Phil, please drop me an email with your full name and postal address so I can arrange for the Philips Aluminium H1861/00 Juicer to be sent to you.

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Thanks again to all the wonderful bloggers who participated in the June Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream event.

July’s challenge will be announced tomorrow; I do hope you’ll join in!

Jun 292012
 

Although Japan Centre moved to its current lower Regent Street location a few years ago, somehow I’ve not visited since it was on Piccadilly. I know if I worked nearby, I’d drop in to the onsite Umai Sushi Factory for lunch on a regular basis.

I was invited along recently to try a selection from their menu.

There is a small bench seating area if you would like to eat in, but the majority of customers buy to takeaway.

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Oddly, the tempura is served cold – perhaps this is common unless one asks for hot? I would definitely prefer them freshly fried and hot, but the cold ones served were still lovely and crispy and with good flavour, the aubergine perfectly cooked inside the batter. A prawn piece and a generous slice of aubergine come to £2.70.

There are also other fried items available, such as panko-coated fish and spring rolls, as well as gyoza (dumplings) and steamed buns.

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The selection of sushi in the fridges opposite the counter is enormous and freshly made each day. I chose these California crab salad and chicken katsu mayo rolls mostly because the orange roe around the rice made them stand out, visually. Priced at £3.60 takeaway/ £4.30 eat in, these were very good, packed with well-balanced flavours and textures and very good value – each piece was nearly 2 inches in diameter.

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The eel nigiri sushi (£4.20 / £5.00) were a little disappointing, and not as good as I’ve had elsewhere in London. A small portion for the price and with not much flavour to the eel. I wouldn’t recommend these.

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My friend chose the Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen Noodles and it was a great choice. Generous amounts of soft barbeque pork, kikurage black mushrooms, red ginger, bean sprouts, spring onion, sesame seeds and crunchy nori seaweed sheets over a tasty broth full of ramen noodles. At £8.30, this was a very filling lunch on its own. A spicy version is also available.

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New to the menu are Umai’s rice burgers – instead of bread buns, fillings are served between two cakes of rice. We chose the Teriyaki Beef & Wasabi rice burger priced at £3.79. Rice cakes make these more filling than a similarly-sized burger in a regular bun, so perfect for a takeaway lunch on their own and again, very good value indeed.

Taste-wise, this was delicious with the sticky, shredded beef filling winning me over immediately. However, they’re not very practical to eat as the rice cakes break apart too easily, and there’s far too much lettuce getting in the way. Ours was also placed into the box over a napkin which promptly welded itself so firmly to the bottom cake of rice that it took me several minutes to peel and pick the tissue away bit by bit, making an enormous mess. We did feed this back to staff, so hopefully this will not happen again.

 

With the fantastic Japan Centre shop behind, and such a wide range of lunch items to choose from, this is an excellent stop for lunch, but a very busy one. We met just before noon and beat the crowds, but just ten minutes after noon, the queues were impressive and by the time we left, there was quite a wait.

 

Kavey Eats dined as a guest of Umai Sushi Factory.

Umai Sushi Factory on Urbanspoon

 

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Of course I’d heard of a Thermomix. Beloved of chefs everywhere and of many domestic cooks too, this machine comes up in conversations with foodie friends on a regular basis. But there are often gasps of shock when the £800 price tag comes up; that’s a hell of a lot for a single appliance!

So, what is a Thermomix, you might be wondering, and why do so many people swear by it, despite the price tag?

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Thermomix with varoma steamer basket fixed above main jug; internal basket, whisk, spatula and measuring cup/ lid window to side

Well, it’s a bit of a multitasker – it blends, chops, grinds, whisks, kneads, weighs, cooks and steams!

On paper, it sounds as though this single machine could replace a number of others including a jug blender, a food processor, a mixer, a slow cooker, a steamer and a grinder. But what’s it like in practice? To help me find out, I was loaned a Thermomix to put through its paces for a few weeks.

I was invited to attend a demo first, and was impressed to see how quickly the Thermomix could grind a fine flour from rice or hard lentils. I also watched the demonstrator blend solid frozen chunks of fruit into a smooth sorbet and chop, cook and blend vegetables into a tasty soup.

The Thermomix comes with a cookery book called Fast and Easy Cooking which provides recipes specifically written for the Thermomix. That may sound obvious, but actually, we found that the speed settings and durations for the chopping, blending and grinding functions in particular very different from our experiences with our Magimix food processor. Likewise, we needed specifics on temperatures and times for cooking.

As well as full recipes, there’s also a section at the front that gives settings for common tasks such as grinding coffee, making icing sugar from granulated, melting chocolate, grinding grains and spices, making breadcrumbs, grating cheese, peeling and chopping garlic, mincing ginger, whisking egg whites. crushing ice, mincing meat and making almond, soya and rice milk.

For our first meal made using the Thermomix we made basil tagliatelle (using the pasta verde recipe) and ragu bolognese.

 

Thermomix Basil Tagliatelle

Ingredients

The original recipe calls for 300 grams of flour, 3 eggs and 50 grams of basil, enough to serve 6-8.

We scaled it down to a third and started with 100 grams of flour, 1 egg and 20 grams of basil.

Perhaps our flour differed wildly from the flour used by the author of the recipe, but we added almost 100 grams again to bring the mixture together into a dough, and even then it was wetter than ideal.

Method

  • The first instruction called us to blend the flour and basil for 30 seconds at Speed 10.The results remain one of the single most impressive feats of the Thermomix for me; the flour and leaves vanished to be replaced with a fine and evenly ground pale green powder; not even a hint of dark leaf matter was visible and I was genuinely gobsmacked and delighted!

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  • We added the egg and kneaded for 1.5 minutes on the dough setting.

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  • Be warned that the machine moves when it’s kneading and Pete held it down to stop it walking off the work surface! We added extra flour to bring the wet mixture together into a sticky dough and kneaded a little more to incorporate it.

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  • We wrapped the dough in clingfilm and left it in the fridge for a couple of hours before making the tagliatelle.

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  • We used the pasta attachments for our KitchenAid to make the tagliatelle, which we did just as the ragu bolognese was finishing its cooking time, so we could cook the tagliatelle as soon as it was cut.

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  • As with all fresh pasta, it cooked within minutes.

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Thermomix Ragu Bolognese

Ingredients
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 3 pieces
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 clove garlic, peeled
50 grams olive oil
450 grams minced meat (ideally half beef and half pork)
50 grams dry white or red wine
400 grams tinned tomatoes or passata
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
Small handful of torn basil leaves, washed and dried

Note: The recipe also calls for 80 grams of celery, but since I hate the stuff, we missed it out. We used 500 grams of beef mince, red wine and tinned tomatoes.

Method

  • Put the onion, carrot and garlic into the TM bowl and chop for 5 seconds at speed 7.

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  • Add the oil and cook for 3 minutes at 100 C on Speed setting Spoon using Reverse Blade Direction.

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  • Add the meat and cook for 10 minutes at Varoma temperature on Speed setting Spoon using Reverse Blade Direction.

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  • Add the wine, tomatoes, bay leaf, nutmeg, salt and pepper and cook for 20 minutes at Varoma temperature on Speed setting Spoon using Reverse Blade Direction until the meat is tender and the sauce is reduced.

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I must admit, I didn’t believe for a moment that such a short overall cooking time would produce a decent result, as the ragu recipes I’ve made in the past have needed several hours of cooking.

But to my surprise, the ragu not only had a lovely and balanced flavour but it was perfectly cooked as well.

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It worked very well indeed with the basil tagliatelle and I thought the finished dish looked beautiful.

So far, so impressed. More posts on our experiments with the Thermomix coming soon.

 

Kavey Eats received a loan machine courtesy of Thermomix. (This is not a sponsored post).

 

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About Cobnuts

The Kent Cob or cobnut is a cultivated variety of hazelnut which originated, as the name suggests, in the county of Kent.

Mankind have likely eaten wild hazelnuts from the dawn of our species, an excellent source of protein foraged from the land. Hazels are found throughout the temperate band of the Northern hemisphere and the nuts from Common, American, Asian and all other species of hazel are edible.

Evidence from an archaeological dig in Colonsay, Scotland suggests that hazelnuts have been cultivated on the British Isles for at least 9,000 years, probably longer.

In the more recent period of recorded history, hazelnuts have been grown in British gardens and orchards since at least the 16th century, though they were often referred to as filberts.

Unlike other nuts, hazelnuts were traditionally marketed as fresh. The season typically lasted from mid August through to October. Wholesalers bought and stored nuts, to sell them throughout the year. They were also much loved by mariners, as they kept fresh for many months and stored so well.

The Victorians adored them and many new cultivars were bred for yield, flavour and shape during the 19th century .

The Kentish Cob was introduced around 1830 and proved so popular that it quickly supplanted most other varieties grown in England. It was probably named for a children’s game similar to conkers but played with hazelnuts – the winning nut was called the cob.

By 1913, over 7,000 acres of plantations fed huge demand, with much of the produce taken into London by train. Kent was certainly the key producer, but cobnuts were also grown extensively throughout the Home Counties.

However, as labour became more expensive, after the First World War and throughout the rest of the 20th century, and as transport and refrigeration improved, British-grown nuts were less able to compete with imports. By 1990, barely 250 acres remained and many of these were derelict.

In that year, The Kentish Cobnuts Association was established with the aims of regenerating the industry, promoting cobnuts and representing its members.

Today, Turkey is the largest producer of hazelnuts in the world, with significant quantities also produced by Italy, America, Greece, Spain and the UK.

In the UK, acreage is still around 250, but new orchards are once again being planted, not only the Kentish Cob, but other varieties too. They are proving to be a perfect crop for modern sensibilities as they are not prone to pests and diseases, they require little or no fertiliser or crop protectant and the crop is picked by hand.

If you are considering buying a hazel for your own garden, be aware that cobnuts are largely self sterile and cannot pollinate from the same variety. If you live in a rural area where there are wild hazels nearby, these will probably pollinate your tree, but otherwise, it is recommended that you purchase two compatible varieties that can pollinate each other.

 

About Demarquette

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The reason I’ve been doing so much reading about cobnuts (and other hazelnut varieties) is down to Demarquette, makers of very fine chocolates indeed.

A few weeks ago, Marc and Kim invited some friends to their Fulham Road store to sample some of their latest creations, and to meet their cobnut supplier, Hurswood Farm.

From the first, Demarquette have sought out the very best British ingredients, and created chocolates that really show them off at their best. So when they tell me about a product I should be enjoying, I know it’s going to be good.

Catherine Robinson from Hurswood Farm told us a little about the Kent Cob, and how Kentish farmers are not only renewing old orchards but planting new ones. She also introduced us to a product I had never come across before, pressed cobnut oil. Like walnut oil (which Hurswood also make) cobnut oil really is the very essence of the nut. Hurswood make a regular and a roasted variety, the latter takes twice as many nuts to produce the same volume but is very special indeed.

Cobnuts (and other varieties of hazelnuts) are commonly used to make pralines. But I was surprised to learn that many chocolatiers buy in their praline ready made. Marc makes his own, and it packs a much more natural and intense flavour than the ready made variety.

We tried a range of Demarquette products featuring cobnuts including Kentish Cobnut Pebbles (I absolutely adore these), Kentish Cobnut Jubilee Diamond Chocolate Pralines, Cobnut Nougat and Cobnut Brownies. All as good as they sound!

When I mentioned that I’d love to try making some cobnut bread, Kim kindly packed me some to take home, along with the little sample bottle of roasted cobnut oil and some of Marc’s pebbles.

 

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How To Make Cobnut Bread (Hazelnut)

Ingredients
70 grams cobnuts (or other hazelnuts), lightly roasted
15 ml cobnut oil
2 cups strong white bread flour
1 teaspoon dried baking yeast
Approximately 1 cup water

Method

  • Place the cobnuts into a bag and use a rolling pin or heavy bottle to break them into small pieces.

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  • In a mixing bowl (or using a stand mixer) combine the strong white bread flour, crushed cobnuts and baking yeast.

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  • Now add the wet ingredients – first the cobnut oil and then some of the water.

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  • Start to mix the ingredients together, adding more water as needed. Take care not to add too much water, or your finished dough will be very sticky and harder to handle and shape.
  • Either use the stand mixer to knead the dough well or knead by hand.

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  • Put the dough into a large bowl, cover and leave aside to rise. For us, this took about 2 hours.
  • Shape the dough and bake in a preheated oven (200 C fan oven, approximately half an hour but may vary).

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  • Leave to cool down a little before slicing.

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I enjoyed this bread fresh with salted butter and a home made broccoli and stilton soup, toasted with butter and jam and dipped into soft-boiled duck eggs. Delicious!

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Our previous visit to Club Gascon was on the special occasion of the restaurant’s 13th birthday. A delicious evening, but not the menu that is usually available. So recently, Pete and I were invited to review the restaurant during a weekday lunch.

At lunch you can order from the Dejeuner Club menu (£25 for 3 courses or for 2 courses with tea / coffee) or splash out on Le Deluxe (5 courses for £65) or Le Marche (6 courses including amuse bouche, £55 or £85 with wine pairing). The two more expensive options are no-choice menus but the Dejeuner Club gives 6 choices for each course, and is the menu we chose from.

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Although all the dishes are small, with mains that are only slightly larger than starters if at all, the menu is still great value.

On arrival you are served with elegantly thin cheese sticks.

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Bread comes with two kinds of butter, a quenelle of chantilly (whipped) butter and a cube of smoked. The bread is very good and includes green pine bread rolls, brown bread slices, seeded buns and mini white ficelles.

And all tables are served an amuse bouche too.

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The amuse turned out to be one of my favourite dishes of the meal. A thick and rich sweet corn pulp with crumbled popcorn, caramelised seeds and liquid green olive pearls, this was a wondrously unexpected combination of flavours, textures and colours all of which worked very well together.

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For his starter, Pete couldn’t resist the Marmite Royale & Toasts. The menu gave no indication whether this was named because it was cooked in a French marmite (a cooking pot) or included the famous yeast extract. Our waitress confirmed the latter, explaining that it was a combination of foie gras and Marmite served with toast.

We liked the way it was served in a branded Marmite pot with toasts atop fabric on a stone plate. The appearance of the Marmite Royale itself wasn’t particularly attractive, nor the wobbly liquid texture, but Pete really enjoyed the taste. For me, though I liked the two little bites I tried I found the Marmite too strong to have enjoyed much more.

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Initially, I ordered Crackled Capon Wings, Scallops Ballotine, Nuts & Lovage. Unfortunately, it was only when it was served that I discovered the presence of celery. If it had just been the chunks of braised celery, I could have picked these out, but much of the rest was also covered in a celery foam. Whilst I’m not allergic, I really can’t stomach the flavour. I wish this main ingredient had been mentioned in the menu description! Still, the staff were very gracious and suggested I order an alternative dish, which was served some minutes later.

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This time I chose the Soft Duck Egg, Horseradish Snow, Peas & Broad Beans. The duck egg was beautifully cooked, with a runny yolk that oozed as soon as I broke into it. Not too much white was included, which suited me just fine. The salad was light and summery; I particularly loved the pea shoots. The horseradish snow was much like the horseradish granita we had at sister restaurant Le Cercle recently and contributed texture, temperature and taste to the dish.

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Pete opted for the Sautéed Beef Onglet Pastrami, Sherry & Barbecued Ketchup. I assume the beef must have been lightly brined to earn the pastrami tag. It was full of flavour, and cooked with decent browning on the outside and pleasantly rare inside. The meaty juice was intensely savoury. The barbecued ketchup was an odd choice for this style of dining, but tasty enough. Pickled baby sweet corn were also unusual. This dish was strange in many ways, but enjoyable!

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My main was my most disappointing dish of the day; listed in the menu as Crab Bisque, Seared Squids, Saffron & Piquillo Pepper Relish. The portion was small, less filling than both our starters. Beneath the foam were some small pieces of squid. They were ok, fairly plain, but lifted by combining each mouthful with a strand or two of samphire. The foamy bisque itself had a pleasant enough flavour. I didn’t detect the piquillo pepper relish. I left to one side the several thin hard discs of undercooked root vegetable, swede I think. This didn’t work well on a number of levels.

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Luckily my dessert made up for it! Dithering between Milk Chocolate Mousse, Hazelnut Biscuit & Violet Ice Cream or Chocolate Fondant With Salted Caramel & Lavender Chantilly I cheekily asked whether I might have the Chocolate Fondant with Violet Ice Cream instead of Lavender Chantilly. Not a problem, I was quickly assured. The chocolate fondant was excellent, with dense, moist cake opening into thick molten liquid chocolate sauce inside. I didn’t detect the salted caramel but it was nonetheless delicious. On top sat a quenelle of chocolate sorbet, nice though a little redundant with the fondant. And then two shaped scoops of subtle, floral violet ice cream. A perfect match, though I’m sure the lavender cream would also have worked very well.

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Pete’s Champagne Rhubarb, Rose & Poppy Emulsion turned out to be a cerise pink macaroon filled with chunky pieces of rhubarb and the rose and poppy cream. Tasty, he said, though he’d have preferred the rhubarb cooked a little softer. And the stuffing was so generous that it couldn’t be picked up and eaten like a sandwich but had to be dismantled on the plate. There were also some strange red jellied stumps on the plate; fruit flavoured but neither of us was sure which fruit. Pretty though, in an alien life form kind of way!

Pete did enjoy this dessert, though commented that it wasn’t what he expected from the menu description.

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Many of the dishes in Le Marche and Le Deluxe menus caught my eye, none more so than the Baileys & Foie Gras Macaroon. When I noticed a note that any dishes in the latter menu could be ordered individually, I asked for this to be added to our order. If you wish to do the same, the price is £10, which includes two macaroons..

I was not disappointed! Thick slabs of rich, buttery, dense foie gras were sandwiched between sweet macaroon shells. Inside the foie gras were hidden hazelnuts which gave an unexpected crunch. I love, love, loved these sweet savoury concoctions and they proved to be another highlight of our meal.

Also on the plate were a selection of tiny meringues, some were lemon flavour and some, I think, were plain. These were nice but the lemon ones clashed slightly with the foie gras macaroon and seemed a little superfluous.

But overall, this was a fabulous dish and for me, it summed up chef proprietor Pascal Aussignac’s playful cooking, which uses traditional ingredients and techniques from Gascony (South West France) in new combinations and ways.

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With tea and coffee we were served a dish of sweets including chocolate dusted almonds, pate de fruits and a strange but addictive folded sheet of chocolate crunch.

 

Club Gascon is a small space with less than 40 covers at full capacity. Service is attentive and helpful, with good knowledge of the menu. At lunch, many of the customers are business men and women, suited and booted and in and out fairly quickly, but you won’t be rushed if you have more time available. We lingered over our meal for almost two hours!

Some of the menu descriptions are less than obvious, and whilst I appreciate that one can’t list every item on the plate, I would like to see key elements that affect the entire dish (such as celery foam over the capon skin and scallop salad) mentioned. Not every dish works perfectly, in our opinion, but part of the pleasure of dining here is to try new things, and we found that aspect very refreshing.

Although the dishes are small, your £25 Dejeuner Club menu is extended by cheese straws, bread and an amuse bouche, plus the sweets that come with tea or coffee as well. I think that’s pretty good value for this quality of cooking.

 

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Club Gascon.

Club Gascon on Urbanspoon

Jun 202012
 

A few weeks ago, I won dinner for two at the Bukhara popup. Much like it’s real home in Delhi, the popup version was located within a posh hotel, this time in Knightsbridge.

Head chef Manjit Gill came over to London to oversee the popup himself and three special tandoori oven were installed for the occasion.

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On arrival in the room itself, I was a little disappointed. Despite the enormous velour-covered green elephant outside the entrance and the namaste greeting on arrival, the “restaurant” still looked very much like the conference room it usually is. It was also so dark I could hardly see the menu, even though the sun was still gloriously high in the sky outside. We asked for the curtain behind our table to be opened a little, which improved things no end.

To my surprise, most of the other tables were empty, and even by the time we left, over half of them were still without diners. Apparently, although the tickets sold out quickly, the organisers were disappointed by a high number of no shows, though given that no payment was taken on booking, this isn’t a huge surprise. A shame, given that there were many people who expressed interest in attending but weren’t able to nab a reservation.

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I was very excited to try the food, as I’ve long since wanted to visit the original in New Delhi, where several family members live. Somehow, I’ve never been, in all my visits to India.

Two set menus were available, a meat and seafood one priced at £79 per person and a vegetarian one at £59.

First, we were served with enormous juicy jumbo prawns and malai chicken, both cooked in the tandoor. These came with a bowl of thick tasty raita, a plate of assorted breads and a bowl each of rich, ghee-laden dal. The prawns and chicken were not only full of flavour but also wonderfully succulent, always a tricky balance to achieve in a tandoor and the sign of an experienced tandoor chef.

Later we were served a dish with a pile of pulled tandoori lamb and unusual stuffed potatoes, formed to resemble marrow bones, it seemed to me. I liked the cumin-heavy spicing on the lamb but found the meat much too dry. The potato oddities were pleasant, if unusual. We were offered more breads and daal, if we wanted – I thought that a nice touch, though given the pricing, generosity was definitely on the cards.

Lastly, though we were already full, was a dessert of gulab jamon and phirni – fried sponge dumplings soaked in sweet syrup and ground rice pudding infused with cardamom. Both were excellent, particularly because the kitchen resisted the temptation to make them as tooth-achingly sweet as usual.

We finished with masala chai.

Full and happy, we waddled out, patting Nimbu the elephant goodbye (yes, I named him) as we went.

It was a wonderful meal, but the organisation seemed lacklustre as did the decoration of the conference venue location. Certainly there was press coverage, but much of it was published some days into the short two week stint, making me wonder whether the entire exercise was more about Bukhara being able to say they hosted a London popup than about really showcasing the best of Indian cooking to a receptive audience.

Perhaps Bukhara are considering opening a permanent London outpost and were dipping their toes in the water?

Jun 172012
 

Where once I might have got most of my inspiration from cookery books, food magazines and even the telly, these days a lot comes from online content. Not just other food blogs (of which I read hundreds and hundreds) but also twitter and, lately, Pinterest.

I was intrigued by the avocado and coconut sorbet my friend Uyen shared in May; she explained that avocado is often used in sweet desserts in Vietnam and that was the first time I ever entertained such an idea. After that, I seemed to spot avocado ice creams everywhere, and pinned this one from The Hill Country Cook blog to try myself.

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The avocado tree, native to Central Mexico, is part of the laurel family – as are the trees from which we take cinnamon and camphor – and has a long history of cultivation in central and South America. The fruits, which are actually large berries with a single stone in each, contain soft green flesh which is high in monounsaturated fat.

The word avocado comes from the Spanish aguacate which in turn comes from the Nahuatl word ahuácatl, meaning testicle, in reference to the shape of the fruit. The modern English name of avocado was taken from the Spanish word for advocate, a way of obscuring the meaning of the original Mexican name. Interestingly, in India and parts of China it is referred to as the butter fruit, presumably because of it’s fattiness.

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I followed Katie’s recipe almost exactly, though as the avocados I found were small, I used 5 instead of 3.

This is the first time I’ve ever had avocado in a sweet format. Although it’s quite unusual I really, really like the result!

The high fat content of the avocado makes for a wonderfully creamy and smooth ice cream. Although it freezes really hard, dipping the ice cream scoop in a mug of hot water helps carve servings from the tub and it’s instantly smooth in the mouth.

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Avocado Ice Cream

Ingredients
5 small avocados
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup double cream
3 cups whole milk
1.5 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  • Measure out the cream, milk, sugar, vanilla extract and lemon juice into a blender.

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  • Halve the avocados, remove the stones and scoop flesh out and add it to other ingredients.

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  • Blend until completely smooth.

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  • Pour into an ice cream machine and churn until frozen.
  • Serve immediately or transfer to the freezer to solidify further.

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As you can see, I retained the avocado skins and used them for serving. If you would like to do this, make sure you scrape out every last scrap of flesh and wash thoroughly. Stuff the skins with balls of foil to help them retain their shape as they dry and on the draining board. My skins were washed and dried just after I made the ice cream and I used them as serving bowls two days later.

 

This is my entry for June’s Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream. Don’t forget there’s a great prize on offer this month!

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Jun 152012
 

Pete and I were recently invited to Dublin by Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board responsible for forging links between Irish producers and potential customers around the world. As well as showcasing excellent Irish produce, Bord Bia also aim to develop markets for Irish suppliers and bring the taste of Irish food to more tables world-wide.

During our 2 day visit, we were taken out for lunch and dinner at a number of local restaurants.

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My favourite of the three was Ely Gastro Pub located on Grand Canal Square in Dublin’s Docklands.

Ely (and sister venues Ely Brasserie and Ely Wine Bar) are owned by Erik and Michelle Robson who source as much as they can from their own family farm in County Clare. The rest is sourced locally, with strong focus on seasonality and quality.

The pub has an outside terrace that would be just lovely on a sunnier day. Sadly, though we visited at the end of May, we were met with rain and cold winds. Inside was warm and dry though, with high ceilings and elegant modern design.

The Guinness bread served with our drinks was absolutely fantastic, sweet and moist and wonderful with salted butter. For my lunch I chose the day’s special, a fillet of salmon cooked to perfection, with crispy skin and moist flesh over a seafood bisque and lightly cooked vegetables. Pete’s burger with "haystack onions", Bandon vale cheddar and bourbon BBQ sauce was enormous and bursting with flavour. Sides such as giant onion rings, chips served with aioli and green beans were very good.

What I liked was the combination of excellent food, friendly service and an attractive and comfortable setting.

 

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On our first evening, we dined at L Mulligan Grocer in the Arbour Hill area of Dublin.

This was a much more casual kind of venue, and our group took three tables with bench seating on the raised level towards the back. The menus were presented within old hardback books and a scrabble board "reserved" sign made us smile.

Although the food was pretty good and service was friendly, it was also very slow and there were a number of mistakes in orders served to at least two of the three tables, resulting in some people almost finishing their mains before others were served. Pete’s scotch egg starter was good. My potted crab was OK – a small portion of only white crab meat, with a very thick layer of butter on top, there wasn’t much flavour, though the crab was no doubt fresh. Mains were better, with some great quality sausages and steak.

The drinks menu was particularly impressive, with a really long list of Irish craft beers on draft and in bottles, not to mention a huge selection of Irish and international whiskies.

 

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The Dublin Wine Rooms include a wine bar and a restaurant. In the wine bar, we had fun using the specialist Enomatic serving system to try tasting, half glass or full glass measures of the many bottles available. Staff were very helpful in suggesting wines to try according to our tastes. We were also invited to sample a range of Irish cheeses with the wines.

Upstairs in the restaurant, we enjoyed excellent starters and mains. Pete’s parsnip and honey soup was one of the best we’ve tasted and my quail and lentil starter was excellent. Steaks and kangaroo mains were also delicious. The big let down came with desserts, which were mediocre; a shame given the great impression made by the savoury courses.

 

All three of our dining experiences showcased the excellent quality of Irish produce and brought home to us that Dublin really is a great destination for a food and drink lover.

 

Kavey Eats was a guest of Bord Bia and of Ely Gastropub, L Mulligan Grocer and Dublin Wine Rooms.

Jun 132012
 

Pete and I were recently invited to Dublin by Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, to attend Bloom 2012.

A bustling gardening and food show held in Dublin’s enormous Phoenix Park, Bloom is now in its 6th year and we quickly understood why it’s become so popular.

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My biggest criticism of RHS Chelsea, which I attended last year, was that the visitor numbers were so high that it was extremely hard to see anything. The crowds at each show garden were so deep that it routinely took 20 minutes or longer to slowly work one’s way to the front in order to be able to actually see the garden before guilt about the crowd behind resulted in shuffling away again a few moments later.

At Bloom, there were plenty of happy visitors but no unpleasant crowds and we were able to really admire the varied show gardens. These were beautiful and varied from a traditional front garden with a bicycle outside (complete with strawberry plants in the handlebar basket) to the modern white garden room with bubble swing to the unusual small garden with red metal plant sculptures to a wildlife meadow with a purple salmon stream to a modern urban landscape with graffiti tunnel and an eagle made from recycled drinks cans.

Another highlight was the enormous walled kitchen garden with vegetable beds in absolutely immaculate condition, not a weed in sight. Around the edges were displays of vintage gardening equipment. I found the planting and upkeep of this area inspirational.

For those wanting to indulge in some retail therapy, there was a vast selection of relevant stalls, both outdoors and in the large marquee tent, selling everything from seeds and seedlings to ride-on lawnmowers to wrought iron trellises and much more.

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The other side of Bloom was the Bord Bia food village, showcasing the best of Irish produce. Everything from smoked fish to fresh pies and quiches to dried seaweed to artisan cheeses to cakes to packaged snacks to cakes and biscuits to juices and beers… the selection was huge and I enjoyed chatting to many of the stall holders. That’s me, above, with the man from Sam’s Potatoes!

Had the show been nearer home, I’d have purchased a tonne to bring home. As it was, I contented myself with a packet of strawberry, mango and sencha tea from Kingfisher Tea. Can’t wait to break into that!

 

The show also had a number of other attractions for visitors including an entertainments stage featuring an eclectic range of musical acts, a cookery theatre with demonstrations from famous chefs, activities for younger children and a humanitarian and environmental zone where you could learn more about bee keeping, the tree council, bird watching and wildlife.

Bloom was an absolute delight to visit and I’d definitely recommend planning your trip to Dublin to coincide with Bloom in future years.

 

Kavey Eats was a guest of Bord Bia and Bloom In The Park.

 

I was recently invited to a mango-themed evening meal and masterclass by Suda, a Thai restaurant just off St Martin’s Lane, near Covent Garden.

The mango dishes and demonstrations were lead by Kessuda Raiva, Executive VP of S&P (who own a number of restaurants and food businesses in Thailand as well as Patara and Suda here in the UK). She was helped by Saipin Lee, S&P’s regional manager for UK and Europe.

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We enjoyed some delicious Thai dishes including green mango salad with crispy fish, roasted duck breast red curry with mango and tomatoes and golden fried sea bass fillet in batter with mango and Thai herb salsa. These are available throughout June, on Suda’s special mango menu.

My favourite, as I expected it might be, was Mango Sticky Rice, a dish I adore.

Here is the recipe for Mango Sticky Rice. I have rewritten the instructions to make them clearer.

 

Kao Niew Mamuang (Mango Sticky Rice)

Serves 5-6

Ingredients
2 cups of glutinous rice
1 cup of coconut cream
3 tablespoons coconut cream (for topping)
2 pinches of salt
1 cup of sugar
5-6 Thai mangoes
Optional: a couple of pandan leaves

Method

  • Soak the glutinous rice for 6 hours (or overnight). Drain. Wrap rice rice in a clean muslin cloth and steam for 15-20 minutes until rice is cooked. *see note.
  • Boil 3 tablespoons coconut cream. Add 1 pinch of salt over low heat. Set aside.
  • Dissolve 1 cup of sugar and 2 pinches of salt in 1 cup of coconut cream and cook on a very low heat until the sugar and salt dissolve. You may also add pandan leaves for flavour, if you like.
  • Remove from the heat, stir in the cooked sticky rice and mix thoroughly, cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Then mix again.
  • Peel and slice ripe mango.
  • Place sticky rice on a small plate and top with mango slices. Spoon the additional coconut cream over the rice and mango.

Note: You can also cook the sticky rice in a microwave. Pour boiling water over uncooked rice, to about an inch over the surface. Stir occasionally, during five minutes, then drain. Add clean warm water to cover the rice and microwave on high for approximately 5 minutes. Remove and stir. If the rice is still hard, microwave for a further 3 minutes.

Kavey Eats attended the Suda Thai mango dinner and master class as a guest of the restaurant.

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