Inspired by my lovely friend Celia’s images of beautiful sourdough loaves, Pete and I tried recently to resurrect our last frozen pot of Levi the Levain, the 50+ year old sourdough starter we’d been given by Tom Herbert at a cooking class some years ago. Sadly, although Levi was a spritely old thing when alive and made us many fine loaves of bread, we were forced to accept that he is well and truly dead.

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Into the breach stepped Celia, sending us a little bag of flakes that made everything better.

That little bag hailed all the way from Sydney, Australia and was a dehydrated portion of Celia’s own sourdough starter, Priscilla. It came with instructions on how to rehydrate and feed, and soon we had our own jar of bubbling sourdough starter ready to use.

Celia has been creating a family tree for Priscilla, who now has offspring all around the world. As per Celia’s request, I chose a suitably Drag Queen-esque name for Priscilla’s London daughter, creating a shortlist and asking for votes. Though I had a soft spot for several of the names including Kiki La Boule, Pussy Focaccia, and Honey Fougasse, there was a runaway winner – and so our new baby starter is proudly named Pussy Galoaf!

Already, Pussy has produced loaves of beautiful flavour, with a bubbly, aerated texture I love. Of course, Pussy can only take some of the credit, the rest belongs to Baker Pete.

The first dough was a little too wet. Pete let it rise and bake in the Lékué silicon bread maker, allowing me the honour of slashing the top, though it stuck as I sliced and then oozed back in on itself. The second dough was less sloppy and he used a regular shaped loaf mould and the same sharp knife to slash; it worked much better. But I still fancy the much deeper gash that Celia has shown us on some of her loaves.

The speckled crust (which I thought was a bit strange) is apparently not uncommon and Celia tells me that some bakers even covet it – who am I to argue?

The crust on both loaves was fabulously crisp, making a satisfying noise as Pete sawed through with a breadknife. I love sourdough toast, and these loaves make great toast. The sourdough was also perfect for my fried cheese and gherkin sandwich!

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Thank you so much to Celia for sending us some of your precious Priscilla! Please accept this post as my entry to this month’s In My Kitchen!

 

It’s been a gradual (and on-going) learning process over the years to work out which cuts of beef are best suited to which dishes or cooking methods. Although I’m pretty confident about the cuts to buy for my favourite meals, I am still getting to grips with others and constantly on the look out for new ways to get the best out of them.

When I asked a few friends for their thoughts recently, it quickly became clear that choosing which cut of meat to buy isn’t an easy task for everyone. And of course, buying the wrong cut for your dish often leads to disappointment, which makes people even more nervous the next time. Says my friend Matt Gibson, “I’ve never really got the hang of the cuts, especially for beef. Basically I just buy whatever looks nice in the shop without thinking too hard about it”.

That comment spurred me on to create my guide to choosing the right cut of beef. The suggestions below are based not only on my own favourites but also incorporate recommendations from fellow bloggers, food writers and chefs.

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Beef cuts diagram via shutterstock.com

 

First, Lessons from a Master Butcher

Having been a butcher since he was 14, Martin Eccles – Master Butcher at Quality Standard Beef & Lamb – reckons that memories of bad experiences in the past also linger; during a private butchery class he explains that “plate waste” was once common when buying a chop or steak to cook at home – that’s the pieces of tendon or gristle left uneaten on the plate – but today’s butchers are moving to reduce that by cutting meat differently.

A big part of Martin’s job for Quality Standard Beef & Lamb is working with butchers to train them on adapting the way they breakdown carcasses to better suit today’s consumer. He advises them on how to to optimise “carcass utilisation” and how best to create modern cuts and smaller roasting joints to suit singles, couples and smaller families. The organisation also works with farmers and supervises the Quality Standard Beef and Lamb marks.

What does Martin mean by modern cuts? He shows me a large rump of beef and explains that it consists of three distinct muscles. Because a steak is best when cut across the grain of the muscle, he separates the three rump muscles, completely removes the silver gristle and then cuts the muscles into individual steaks. Where traditional rump steaks consist of all three muscle types held together with connective tissue, the three new cuts – picanha (aka rump cap) steaks, prime rump steaks and bistro rump steaks – are each comprised of just one muscle. They are easy to cook, tender and with no plate waste.

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Martin breaking a rump into different muscles and cuts of steak

Incidentally, here’s a quick Kavey lesson for you: Raw meat is made up of muscle, fat and connective tissue – the muscle is what we think of as meat; the fat melts or crisps during cooking, adding flavour and moisture; collagen-heavy connective tissues (such as tendons and ligaments) also break down if cooked for long enough; but other connective tissues (such as cartilage and membranes) don’t break down and are what we subsequently label as gristle. Note that while we have a preference to avoid gristle in Western cooking, the stretchy and chewy texture is prized and enjoyed in some cuisines.

Back to Martin’s lessons on newer ways of cutting beef. Whipping out a long lump of meat from the shoulder blade, he tells me that this was (and still is) commonly cut and sold as feather steak. But the feather has gristle running right down the centre, meaning that every steak has a piece of gristle at its heart. Another option is to cut the long blade into two thin pieces, remove the gristle completely and then divide the two long flat irons, as they are known, into individual portions.

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Martin cutting feather blade into two, removing membrane and creating flat iron steaks

Martin also tells me how butchery changed in the years following World War II; beef was far less readily available and animals were older and tougher too so butchers broke the meat down into smaller cuts, separating the tender ones from the tougher ones, to allow for different cooking. Now that we have access to top quality beef again, there are still cuts that benefit from long, slow cooking, but it is also be very straightforward to choose quick-to-cook, tender cuts.

 

Kavey’s Guide to Beef Cuts & Dishes

Mince

Although it’s not really a cut so much as (usually unspecified cuts of) beef ground through a mincer, mince is one of the most popular ways we buy and eat beef.

Restaurant chef Mat Follas often cooks mince at home as his kids love dishes such as “burgers, meatballs and lasagnes”. Bloggers Alicia Fourie, Laura Scott, Karen Burns-Booth and Kathryn and are also fans, praising its versatility and adding dishes such as meat loaf, chilli, spagbol, cottage pie and keema to the list. My husband Pete makes a mean ragu, letting it cook longer for a more tender texture.

Alicia’s recently purchased a mincer attachment for her stand mixer so may switch to making her own; I hope she’ll share tips on which cuts are best for which dish.

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Mince

Braising / Stewing – Shin of Beef, Ox Cheek, Brisket, Chuck, Oxtail, Short Rib, Flank

Everyone I spoke to loves braising beef – cooking it long and slow in liquid until even the toughest cuts become tender. Collagen is your friend here, as it breaks down into a gelatinous sauce that adds flavour and richness.

Blogger Sally Prosser (a Brit transplanted to Dubai) loves “slow-cooked casseroles with red wine, bay leaves and carrots or a beef stew with dumplings” at “any time of the year, even the height of a Dubai summer”. Food blogger and journalist Neil Davey buys “the low and slow” stuff (listing several braising cuts) more than anything else as he likes “no fuss hearty cooking”. At this time of the year, he uses the slow cooker a lot. “While these are no longer the bargain cuts they were, you still get a lot of bang for the buck”. He uses these rather than mince for dishes like chilli, cottage pie and pasta sauces.

Food blogger Helen Best-Shaw recommends “shin of beef for long slow cooking, it is so rich and also very affordable”. Laura agrees, telling me beef shin is her favourite “as it makes the most tender yet fully flavoured stew. It does need lots of cooking time” but she reckons its worth it.

Karen and Alicia favour brisket; Karen says it’s her “number one cut for flavour” and recommends “Hunting Beef – an old English recipe where the beef is marinated for 4 days in a spiced salt rub”. This cut is also a popular choice for making corned beef, salt beef and pastrami.

Alicia and Neil are the only ones to mention my personal favourite, ox cheek which is still an underrated (and therefore bargainous) cut. I adore it in dishes like beef cheeks bourguignon and Chinese-style braised ox cheek, but it also works beautifully substituted into recipes such as balsamic and red wine braised lamb or beef carbonnade with mustard toasts. Make sure you (or your butcher) remove(s) any remaining membranes before cooking cheeks whole or cubed. Incidentally, I’m really not sure why beef cheeks (and tails, liver and blood) are often labelled as ox – the term more commonly refers to cattle used as draft animals rather than for food. I guess it’s one of those language hangovers…

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Shin (bone in, boneless, cubed) and rolled brisket

Roasting – Rib, Picanha, Sirloin

When Martin told me that Brits roast far less than they used to, I didn’t believe him and yet only two of the friends I spoke to listed a roasting joint in their top three cuts.

Neil, Karen and I are in complete agreement that the best joint for roasting is a (fore) rib of beef. As Karen points out, it would be her number one beef purchase if the cost weren’t so prohibitive, and likewise Neil does a rib roast a couple of times a year. There’s no question in my mind that beef rib is the tastiest choice – the texture of the meat, the marbling of fat through the meat, contributing to its superb flavour. But yes, this is an expensive joint. Cooking for two, I often buy a boned and rolled rib, but if cooking for more, bone in is gorgeous.

Topside and silverside are two very common roasting joints. Usually significantly less than half the price per kilo of rib joints, this makes them very popular, and a decade ago these were the joints Pete I usually bought; we took supermarkets on their word that these cuts were great for roasting. Eventually we realised we were more often disappointed than happy with their taste and texture, and decided we’d rather have really fabulous roast beef once every few months than mediocre roast beef every couple of weeks.

Another cut that I think makes a fantastic roast is the picanha (aka rump cap). Picanha is the cut’s Brazilian name, by the way, and it’s a highly prized piece of beef. Here, it’s often cut and sold as steaks, but ask your butcher to sell you the rump cap in one piece and try it for your next roast.

My other choice, when there’s no rib available, is a very thick slab of sirloin. The meat counter in our local supermarket cuts sirloin steaks to your preferred thickness; instead of asking for steaks, I have them cut me one piece about 7-8 cm thick, which makes a quick two person roast (with leftovers for a tasty sandwich).

Where I don’t want to stretch budget to one of my three preferred roasting cuts, I’d rather roast a chicken or lamb, or cook a braising joint long and slow, in liquid.

I certainly recommend avoiding beef sold only as a ‘roasting joint’ without any indication of cut, like a recent example from our local supermarket, bought when the meat shelves were unusually bare. Sadly, for all the label’s fancy talk of Hereford Beef and 30 days dry aging, it was enormously disappointing.

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Fore rib of beef (bone in and boneless) and boneless sirloin

Steaks

The two front runners for choice of steak are rib eye followed by sirloin.

Rib eye is my own favourite, and our number one purchase for a perfect dinner of steak and triple cooked chips – Pete’s in charge of those and they’re super!

At home, Mat also chooses rib eye because “it has flavour, unlike most other cuts, from lots of fat”. Neil agrees. A few years ago he attended a comparison session between rib eye, fillet, rump and sirloin. He says, “Fillet is boring as, sirloin and rump are both very good, but a well marbled piece of rib-eye, cooked somewhere around medium-rare / medium so that there’s a char and all that fat is starting to melt? That’s what it’s all about.” Laura too loves a rib eye, “well marbled with a good layer of fat”, adding that it’s “the fat that provides the most flavour when it comes to a good steak”. She’s also a fan of wagyu (high quality, highly marbled Japanese beef) for the same reason.

Sirloin is the steak of choice for Sally, as it offers “the perfect balance of fat to meat ratio for a fat-averse family”. She also buys 3 kilo whole sirloins for the barbecue. I don’t find it as flavoursome as rib eye but if you can find a longer aged piece, that helps.

What about other cuts?

Steaks from the rump are usually very good, though I’d recommend seeking out the newer cuts Martin describes above, where the three rump muscles are separated and then cut into steaks individually.

Kathryn reckons that “ribeye and rump give you quite a lot of ‘bang for your buck’ particularly when it comes to flavour”. She also finds rump “is a bit more forgiving when it comes to timings and you can cook it for a little longer and it doesn’t get ruined”.

Incidentally, when it comes to cooking any of the fattier steaks (such as rib eye) I recommend taking them to medium rare (or even medium if that’s your preference) rather than rare; this allows the fat within the meat to melt and the larger pieces of fat to brown.

Flat iron, another cut that I talked to Martin about, is another tasty and somewhat more affordable choice, though I rarely see it in supermarkets; a butcher is your best bet. It’s cut from feather blade piece but divided into two to remove the central gristle, which leaves two long thin pieces that can be portioned into three or four steaks.

If you’ve ever travelled to France you’ll be familiar with onglet and bavette, two popular cuts served in restaurants across the country. Karen (who spends much of her time in France) loves rump for flavour but in France she’ll usually opt for bavette, which offers flavour at a great price. So what are onglet and bavette in UK terminology? Onglet is known here as hanger, skirt or butcher’s steak, cut from the plate (diaphragm) area and with a really deep flavour. Bavette is flank steak, taken from just behind the onglet and is also dense and well flavoured. Both are best cooked fast on a very hot griddle, medium rare to rare. Overcooking these can result in dry or tough steaks.

Flat iron, onglet/skirt and bavette/flank are also great choices for marinating before cooking.

Fillet is known as the most tender cut, but it has very little fat and lacks the flavour of the other cuts; I would never choose it myself. (For American readers, this cut is what you guys call tenderloin).

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Skirt (onglet) steak

 

Buying British

Perhaps it’s a function of who I asked, but everyone I spoke to makes an effort to seek out British beef and lamb.

Mat, being a kiwi, has an excuse for choosing New Zealand lamb, though he also points out that British lamb is sold in early spring when it’s not had much time running around in fields and is too young to have developed enough flavour. When it comes to beef, he buys British. For his restaurant he buys from a butcher or wholesaler, for home it’s a split between butcher and supermarket. He says he’d “rather spend a little more for quality and have less quantity”, echoing my own thoughts on enjoying a fabulous beef rib roast every now and again rather than an inferior roast every fortnight.

Karen buys British when she’s in the UK and French or New Zealand when in France, preferring organic, locally sourced meat with a known provenance.

Neil explains that although he’s “been known to happily devour USDA steaks at Goodman”, when cooking at home, he buys British, noting that “we produce some of the finest meat in the world; the fall out of the BSE problem and Foot & Mouth has been a massive improvement in farming standards and improved labelling”.

Laura has been to visit two animals farms (something I’ve also done) and believes “our meat is of a high standard”. She buys organic or Freedom foods meat, keeping an eye out for special offers which she stores in the freezer.

Alicia always seeks out British, and if there’s none available, she doesn’t buy. She says that although “Rayner makes a compelling case for New Zealand lamb, for [her] it isn’t about the food miles so much as supporting British farmers and creating food that has a sense of the place we live in”. She doesn’t “understand steak houses that open here making a virtue of the fact that they use American beef – the British beef I have had is the best I have had anywhere”.

While Matt may not yet have much knowledge of cuts, he does “pretty much avoid buying non-British”. As he hates the “overall big supermarket experience” he buys most of his meat from local independent butchers, which he has within walking distance. When “it’s a choice between rubbish ‘local’ supermarkets who aren’t good for meat, or fabulous, friendly independent butchers who really know what they’re doing, it’s no surprise I end up in the butchers”.

 

Contributors

Alicia Fourie foodycat.blogspot.co.uk
Helen Best-Shaw fussfreeflavours.com
Karen Burns-Booth lavenderandlovage.com
Kathryn londonbakes.com
Laura Scott howtocookgoodfood.co.uk
Mat Follas matfollas.com
Matt Gibson gothick.org.uk
Neil Davey nrdavey.co.uk
Sally Prosser mycustardpie.com

With thanks to Quality Standard Beef & Lamb for arranging a private masterclass with Martin Eccles and giving us some delicious British beef and lamb to take home. Further information about British beef (and lamb), including quality assurance, nutrition, cuts and carving advice can be found at the Simply Lamb & Beef website. Additional images courtesy of Quality Standard Mark and Shutterstock.

 

There’s no denying that I love going out to eat. But I’m also very partial indeed to a really good takeaway – whether we dine at the table or slob out in front of the TV, having great food delivered from local restaurants is a wonderful indulgence. For the last couple of years, we’ve happily foregone the frantic search for a takeaway menu, not to mention the irritation of dishes and prices being out of date, by ordering online via JUST EAT. Being able to pay by card is a boon too.

Tried & Tasted 2012-2015 consistency logo

One of JUST EAT’s regular campaigns is their Tried & Tasted award scheme – customers across the country feed back on their favourite local takeaways via the website’s reviews and ratings scheme and JUST EAT give awards based on the ratings. In order to ensure both consistency and quality, JUST EAT stipulate that winning restaurants must have more than 100 online reviews with an average rating of 4.5 or above. This year, on top of awarding Tried & Tasted status to over 1000 restaurants, there is a new Consistency award that recognises the nation’s top 20 from those establishments that have achieved Tried & Tasted for 4 years in a row.

The 2015 Tried & Tasted results are now out and I can’t wait to see which of my local favourites have been recognised by fellow customers.

 JE logo

COMPETITION

JUST EAT UK are offering one reader of Kavey Eats a £50 credit voucher to spend on their website.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 2 ways – the more ways you enter, the higher your chances of winning:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, telling me the name of your favourite Just Eat local takeaway and why you love it.

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey and @JustEatUK on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below:
I love a top notch takeaway so I’m entering Kavey Eats’ @JustEatUK Tried & Tasted comp to win £50 voucher http://bit.ly/KEjusteat #KEJustEat
(Do not add the @Kavey twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag. And please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Saturday 14 March 2015.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The winner will be selected from all valid entries (across blog and twitter) using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • The prize is a £50 voucher to be used on JUST EAT UK.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by JUST EAT UK.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. You may enter both ways but you do not have to do so for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey and @JustEatUK at the time of notification. Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email or Twitter so please make sure you check your accounts for the notification message.
  • If no response is received from a winner within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Kavey Eats received a credit voucher from JUST EAT UK.

 

I wrote recently about why I (and many others) love our microwaves, and also about how we’ve been getting on with our new Heston for Sage Quick Touch.

To put it through it’s paces, we’ve not only been defrosting, softening, melting, reheating, sterilising, steaming… we’ve been pushing it a little further and seeing how else we can use it. These fabulously easy microwave salted caramels can certainly be made on the stove, but we found the microwave method very quick and straightforward and they turned out absolutely perfectly.

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The recipe I’ve used is adapted from a number of American ones I found on the web; I’ve amended the amounts, partly because of what I had available in the stock cupboard and partly because I prefer to work in (metric) weight measurements rather than (cup) volume ones. One of the sugars this recipe calls for is corn syrup, which is far more prevalent in the US than here in the UK. From what I’ve read, I think the inverted sugar helps to form a smooth and glossy finish.

I had some corn syrup that I bought recently in the US so I didn’t need to substitute, however as corn syrup is difficult to find in the UK, my understanding is that you can substitute glucose syrup (which can be made from corn, potatoes, wheat or even rice) – this is sometimes labelled as liquid glucose or confectioner’s syrup.

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The thermospatula!

Some recipes advise cooking until the caramel reaches soft ball stage, which means the caramel solidifies into a coherent ball when a spoonful is dropped into cold water. I find that really difficult to judge, so I prefer to use a thermometer to make sure the mixture gets hot enough. For the last few months, I’ve been using my new thermospatula from Lakeland – it’s much easier than using my old traditional metal jam thermometer clipped to the side of the pan which made it difficult to stir – now the stirring spoon is the thermometer!)

This recipe produces a soft chewy caramel with a delicious buttery flavour. I’ll be a little more generous when I sprinkle sea salt on top next time, as the crunch and flavour of those little white flakes is gorgeous.

Easy Microwave Salted Caramels

Makes approximately 50

Ingredients

For the caramel:
Butter for greasing
120 grams butter
180 grams light corn syrup (or glucose syrup)
200 grams Demerara sugar or light brown sugar*
200 ml condensed milk
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 0.5 tsp vanilla extract)
For sprinkling:
2-3 generous pinches sea salt

* You can substitute regular (white) sugar if you don’t have light brown.

Note: Since this recipe is for salted caramels, I went ahead and used lightly salted butter as that’s what we always have in our fridge. Use unsalted if you prefer.

Note: Make sure the bowl you use is heatproof to a high temperature (we used Pyrex). The mixture boils and expands enormously during cooking so the bowl also needs to be at least three or four times as large as the initial volume of all the ingredients.

Method

  • Grease a baking dish or roasting pan with butter and set aside.
  • In a large heatproof mixing bowl, melt the butter, then add all the other caramel ingredients and mix well.
  • Microwave on full power until mixture reaches a temperature of 115 °C (240 °F). We started checking after 5 minutes and returned the bowl to cook further in 30 second bursts. Full power on our microwave is 1100 watts, and our mixture took 7.5 minutes. If your microwave is less powerful, you may need to cook for a few more minutes. The mixture will start boiling and expanding long before it is ready; you need to keep cooking until you reach temperature or your caramel won’t set when it cools back down.
  • Once it’s ready, pour into prepared baking dish. It should naturally spread out such that the surface is flat.
  • After it’s cooled for a couple of minutes, sprinkle sea salt generously across the surface.
  • Leave to cool for at least an hour.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut into squares or rectangles and wrap individually in squares of parchment paper.
  • Store in the fridge, especially in warm weather.

If you try this recipe, please come back and let me know how you got on. I’d love to hear from you!

Kavey Eats received a Quick Touch microwave and a thermospatula for review. The Lakeland link is an affiliate link, please see sidebar for more information.

 

I grew up in Luton, which may not sound like a hotbed of multiculturalism but our personal corner of it always was – our family friends included Chinese, Jewish, Indians, Irish, Malaysians, Scottish, Sri Lankans amongst others. When it came to New Year, we celebrated according to both the Gregorian and traditional Chinese lunar calendars. I will never forget the days we spent running wild with the other kids around the farm house, outbuildings and extensive gardens of Uncle John and Aunty Margaret, in between repeated bouts of feasting from a huge kitchen table groaning with dishes and the all-important steamboat. Cherished memories…

So it’s a shame that I seldom cook Chinese food at home; it remains something we tend to eat out, not least because I have a soft spot for dim sum, hard work to make at home (given the sheer variety that can be enjoyed in a single inexpensive meal out). The same goes for roast duck and many other favourite dishes.

That said, I have been using Amoy products for many years; mainly their soy sauces which are available in varieties including light, dark, reduced fat and special selection. I recently tried the lemongrass and kaffir lime one, which adds a lovely rounded citrus flavour – perfect for one of my favourite simple marinades for grilled lamb chops – mix soy, mustard and honey to taste and spread over the meat before grilling.

The meal below was created using some of Amoy’s other products, which they sent to me along with Chinese lanterns, fortune cookies and gold-embossed red envelopes, used to give monetary gifts on special occasions. I’ve added a bowl of clementines, not only because they’re one of my favourite fruits but because oranges are a common gift at Chinese New Year, associated with prayers for good fortune. Fresh fruit also symbolises a new beginning.

Red, gold and orange are the key colours for Chinese New Year, and make laying a themed table simple to achieve. If you are able to add in a few lanterns and red envelopes of your own, so much the better!

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We weren’t so keen on the Amoy straight-to-wok medium noodles, which we combined with spring onions, beansprouts and Amoy’s chow mein stir fry sauce – the texture of the noodles was mushy (though we cooked them exactly as instructed) and the sauce wasn’t one I’d buy again.

But we enjoyed the Amoy satay stir fry sauce which we combined with chicken thighs, button mushrooms and sugar snaps. I’d serve this over rice rather than add noodles to the pan (as recommended in the instructions).

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Wishing all my readers a very happy Chinese New Year – Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Kavey Eats received a selection of sample products, decorations and a supermarket voucher from Amoy.

 

Pete and really loved yakiniku dining during our two visits to Japan; I have written previously about our yakiniku experiences, along with the history of yakiniku.  Considered a Korean import, the Japanese version is no longer an exact copycat of its Korean inspiration, not least in the range of meat cuts and marinades and the selection of side dishes. While there are plenty of restaurants offering Korean BBQ in London, Kintan may well be the first yakiniku restaurant, as it claims.

Brought to London by a company that is successful across Japan as well as in Hong Kong and Jakarta, Kintan boasts a prime location on High Holborn, and was doing brisk business on the January weekday we visited for lunch.

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The interior is very attractive, simple but with beautiful details. I particularly loved the various tiles used on different walls around the deceptively spacious interior, and also the beautiful wooden booths, tables and area dividers. There are touches of tradition in the sake barrels and smiling Asahi maneki-neko (beckoning cat) but it’s essentially a modern style.

We were invited to try the Premium dinner menu, £44.50 per person. There are other dinner options at lower and higher price points, plus some very reasonable lunch deals (£8 to £18 for yakiniku, less for non-grill options) to appeal to the office workers in the area.

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We started with a sparkling sake, a brand that’s stocked by quite a few Japanese restaurants here. It has the distinctive flavour of sake but is lighter in alcohol, sweeter and with bubbles. A friend called it the babycham of the sake world, a spot on analogy!

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First to be served were the Kintan salad and edamame beans with salt. The beans were… well, edamame beans. The salad was delightful, light crunch from raw shredded cabbage, mixed salad leaves, cherry tomato and hard boiled egg all dressed in a light but richly flavoured mayo.

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Hot oil seared salmon was super, with blanched ginger matchsticks and a light sesame oil citrus dressing.

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Tuna tartar volcano was a highlight – a light tuna mayo with spring onions, chives and caviar on a crunchy deep-fried block of rice that was both crispy and chewy and a gentle kick of heat too. A real winner!

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There were seven dishes listed under “Mains” for the Premium dinner menu. We were served only five, though I didn’t realise until we’d left (when I took another look at the photo I took of the menu). On one hand, we certainly had plenty to eat, and enjoyed everything we were served; but on the other, a failure to deliver two out of seven dishes seems quite an oversight and one I’d be crosser about had I not been invited as a guest.

A fourth plate of (skirt) beef may not have been a big deal but the lack of halloumi, when I remembered it, was such a shame – I adore barbecued halloumi!

Most guests will look at the menu to order but can hardly be expected to memorise dishes, so it’s important for restaurants to serve all that is ordered (and charged for).

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Unlike the yakiniku restaurants we tried in Japan, at Kintan the grill is recessed below table level but that’s a good safety feature and we liked it. It did have the clever Japanese smokeless extraction system that whips away smoke before it rises above grill level, meaning you shouldn’t walk out smelling like a bonfire!

Be warned, the grill radiates a phenomenal amount of heat and you’ll certainly feel hot sitting around it. Perfect for winter but probably less appealing in the heat of summer.

What really surprised us was how long it took for the grill to heat up enough to cook our meat. Even after the elements started glowing red, it took much longer than expected to get even the hint of a sizzle when we placed a slice of beef onto the grill.

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Once it finally got to temperature, everything was good with the world. We loved the three different meats that were served – salt and pepper fillet, premium rib eye and premium kalbi short rib, the latter two in different sticky marinades, the fillet with an accompanying yuzu ponzu dipping sauce. There were also two delicious dipping sauces on the table.

The prawns were tasty too but the scallops were pitiful. I wondered, from the waiter’s instructions to make sure we cooked them very thoroughly for at least two minutes on each side, whether they’d been frozen and then defrosted but he assured me not. From the texture and lack of taste of the scallops, I remain unconvinced. A pity, when the beef was so enjoyable.

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Our miso soup came near the end, as we’d requested when asked earlier on in the meal. It’s listed as a starter, but more commonly enjoyed at the end of a meal in Japan, and I prefer it that way.

Also delivered quite late, when we’d nearly finished the meat and seafood, were garlic fried noodles. Also listed as a starter, I’d have preferred these to come out at the same time as the proteins were served. They were very tasty, but I must give you Pete’s description which sounds odd but is exactly right – they tasted just like garlic bread! And yet were chewy, like udon noodles! So strange, but rather good, regardless. I wondered if they were made in house, but our waiter thought not; he said that the company is quite a large one and most of their sauces and many ingredients are supplied by the chain.

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Mochi ice creams to finish were lovely. The salted caramel was Pete’s favourite but too sweet for me; I loved the matcha and sesame flavours.

At £90 for two, plus drinks and service, this is not a cheap dinner, somewhat at odds with the situation in Japan where we found yakiniku prices if not quite low budget, certainly very affordable. Some of that will be down to the central London (Holborn) location, but I suspect it’s also a case of charging what people will pay for an unfamiliar experience.

We had a good meal (albeit missing two dishes on our set menu) but I can’t help comparing the price to several Korean BBQ dinners we’ve enjoyed at our local Yijo restaurant in Central Finchley; we’ve been hard-pressed to spend more than £25 a head there and eaten at least as much as we did at Kintan. Of course, Yijo and Kintan are not exactly like for like – while the grill meats are very similar the non-grill dishes at Yijo are firmly Korean with lots of kimchi, pickles and spice; at Kintan it’s more of a modern Japanese mix.

If you’ve not tried yakiniku, this is a a good place to try and the lunch deals seem to offer a great value option.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Kintan restaurant.

Kintan on Urbanspoon

 

In my recent post about The Wild Meat Company’s pheasant and partridge, I mentioned the first recipe we made on receipt of my big box of game birds. A twitter friend kindly shared her recipe for pheasant, and I filled in the details by thinking about other one pot braises I’ve cooked in the past. My pheasants were delivered ready for the oven – hung, plucked, gutted – so nothing to do on that front, much to my relief.

Braising the pheasant in cider helped keep the meat moist – pheasant is a fairly lean bird and prone to dry out easily – and the apples broke down and contributed to a tasty sauce for the mash.

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Cider-Braised Pheasant with Shallots, Apples & Thyme

Serves 2

Ingredients
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 small or 1 large pheasant, oven-ready *
75 grams pancetta or bacon, cubed
8-10 small shallots or 4-5 large ones halved, peeled
300 grams cooking apple, peeled, cored and sliced ~
500 ml dry cider
Small sprig fresh thyme or generous half teaspoon dried

Optional: buttery mashed potato, to serve

* My pheasant was about 900 grams, so enough to serve 2. If your birds are smaller, use 1 per person.
~ We used a lot of apple as we had a 300 gram bag of prepped apple in the freezer. Use less if you prefer.

Method

  • Choose an stove and oven-proof casserole dish large enough for your pheasant(s), the shallots and apples and a good amount of liquid.
  • On the stove top, heat vegetable oil in your casserole dish and brown the pheasant(s) on all sides. A pair of rubber-tipped tongs is useful for this. Once browned, remove the pheasant(s) from the pot and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 180 °C (fan).
  • Add the pancetta or bacon to the pot and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the shallots and cook on a high heat until they take on a little colour. Stir regularly so the shallots colour rather than catch.
  • Push the shallots and bacon to the edges to make space, then add the pheasant(s) back to the pot, breast side down. Spread the cooking apples around (and between, if cooking two birds) and throw in the thyme. Pour cider to at least half way up the bird(s). If you’re using a smaller pot you may not need the full 500 ml.

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  • Cook on the stove for a further minute or two, until the liquid just starts to simmer, then put a lid onto the casserole dish and transfer to the oven.
  • Bake for 1 hour.
  • Remove from the oven and carefully lift pheasant(s) onto a warm plate to rest. Return the casserole dish to the stove and cook for a minute or two to reduce the sauce.

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  • As we were sharing one pheasant between two, I used our kitchen scissors to cut the bird in half. Serve with mash and sauce.

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As you can see, this isn’t the most elegant looking plate, but it was certainly a tasty and warming meal. Perfect for this cold winter weather.

If you haven’t already, take a moment to enter my competition to win a Poachers Delight Game Birds Box of your own, courtesy of The Wild Meat Company.

More pheasant recipes to whet the appetite:

Kavey Eats received a sample box from the Wild Meat Company. Thank you to Melanie for the recipe idea.

 

A lot of foodies scorn microwaves. They proudly announce that they don’t, and never would, have one in their kitchen and I can’t help but wonder if they imagine all those who have one subsist on microwave ready meals and reheated takeaways. I always feel a little sorry for them, honestly; their conviction that real foodies never microwave means they miss out on one of the great modern tools of the domestic kitchen.

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My latest microwave experiment, I’ll be sharing the recipe soon

Even before you consider recipes that can be made in the microwave, there are many little heating tasks at which they excel:

  • Melting butter
  • Melting chocolate without a bain marie
  • Poaching eggs
  • Steaming vegetables
  • Cooking rice
  • Reheating dishes that would tend to dry out in the oven or overly reduce on the stove top
  • Briefly heating a lemon or lime before juicing (to make it easier to juice)
  • Heating a mug of milk for a quick latte or hot chocolate
  • Decrystallising honey
  • Sterilising kitchen washcloths and sponges
  • Heating wheat packs for muscle pain relief

I’ve also heard of people using a microwave to speed proof yeasted doughs, to roast a head of garlic and to par cook jacket potatoes before finishing them in the oven. The latter we now cook in the slow cooker, and I’m yet to try the first two; let me know if you have!

It won’t surprise you to learn that I’ve always had a microwave. My parents had one through most of my childhood, they kindly bought me a small, cheap one for my student house when I was at uni, and Pete and I have had one in our kitchen for the last two decades.

Last year, I reviewed a couple of appliances designed by Heston for Sage, including my lovely Smartscoop ice cream machine (review post here).

This month I’ve been putting my Heston for Sage Quick Touch microwave to the test.

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  • Because the water content in different foods varies so wildly, it can be tricky to guestimate how long different foods need in the microwave; chocolate contains only 3% water whereas most vegetables contain 95%!. Sensors in the Quick Touch microwave sense the amount of humidity released from food and automatically adjust the power level and the cooking time accordingly.
  • There is a shortcut panel (of pre-sets) for common tasks such as melting chocolate, softening butter and heating baked beans (a personal favourite of Heston’s, apparently) – all you need to do is input the weight and touch the relevant button.
  • Of course, the Quick Touch has normal microwave functions as well – you can manually input your power (with 10 levels from 10% to 100%) and the amount of time. The maximum power is 1100 watts so it’s pretty versatile. (Older consumer microwaves often topped out at 800 watts).
  • Pete’s a big fan of the fact that the timer defaults to 30 seconds and if you don’t press any other button or enter a time, will simply start at full power as soon as you close the door. There’s also a cute A Bit More button when something is nearly done but not quite.
  • So far, we’ve been very impressed with the melting butter, melting chocolate and sensor cook functions – perfectly cooked carrots and broccoli courtesy of the latter.
  • Reheating leftovers works fine, as do all the other regular tasks I listed above. Heating seems to be even throughout a plate of food, rather than spots of scalding hot and still cold.
  • It’s a heavy beast, so best for kitchens where it won’t need to be moved regularly.
  • The price tag (around £250-270 depending on retailer) is high, especially as this microwave doesn’t have convection cooking or grilling functionality.

By the way, if you caught a glimpse of the green writing on the front of the freezer in one of the images above, you may be interested in my post on how to organise the contents of a large freezer.

I’ve also been talking to other food bloggers and writers about how they use their microwaves.

Celia Brooks, cook and cookery book author, loves her microwave. She reminds us that “it’s not an oven but a tool to vibrate water molecules” and is therefore “especially good for veggies” with their high water content. As Celia’s main food group is vegetables, it’s an essential tool in her kitchen. She loves to steam vegetables in it, and she cooks aubergine chunks or slices with a little salt before adding them to a ratatouille or moussaka – they absorb less oil if cooked a little first. She likes to “fill flat mushroom caps with cream cheese and herbs”; cooking these in the microwave forms “a luscious sauce”. She also warms milk, makes porridge and heats single portions of dishes like lasagne, for which heating the regular oven would be wasteful.

Helen Best-Shaw, food blogger and recipe developer, mainly uses hers for reheating, defrosting and cooking vegetables and grains. She says she nearly always cooks brown rice in it, which is “perfectly cooked in 14 minutes”. She also partially cooks baked potatoes before finishing in the oven.

Urvashi Roe, food blogger and baker, uses her most days, mainly for defrosting and reheating. She also uses it to melt chocolate, and for “emergency baking” when she has chocolate cake cravings. She finds it particularly useful on days she’s running late, needs to feed the children and can simply take a batch-cooked soup or dhal out of the freezer, defrost, heat and serve.

MiMi Aye, food blogger and cookery book author, loves the convenience of her microwave. She uses it to heat leftovers, cook vegetables like courgettes, warm soup and baked beans, cook ready meals and make microwave popcorn. Like Urvashi, she likes batch cooking meals and freezing them in portions. She reminds me that the microwave is also the easiest way to sterilise baby bottles. And she sent me this rather mesmerising video of blowing up Peeps (American marshmallow birds) in the microwave!

Alicia Fourie, food blogger and keen cook, uses her microwave for warming milk and reheating leftovers. She also loves it for cooking asparagus and corn on the cob, finding it “much easier than boiling” and less faff than lighting the barbecue.

Miss South, food blogger and cookery book author, originally got a microwave because, although she’s a “freezer fiend”, she lacks the organisation to take things out in time to defrost. She also loves using it to cut down on cooking times, pointing out that “microwaving takes less time and costs less than turning [her] electric cooker”. These days, she also uses the microwave to back up her slow cooker, by “batch cooking 3-4 portions of something lovely” and freezing the rest; being able to defrost and blast these home made ready meals in the microwave stops her “tiring of staples” and is also a boon when she’s ill or really busy. She is also a fan of microwaveable rice, which she pimps into fried rice with the addition of frozen peas and an egg.

Of course, a microwave isn’t a substitute for other cooking appliances. I love my gas stove top and electric oven and I regularly use my slow cooker, sous vide cooker and power blender (which can cook soups and custards).

The key is to understand a microwave’s strengths  and put it to use accordingly.

Do you have a microwave? How do you use it? And what’s the one thing you use it for that you’d hate to do without?

Kavey Eats received a Quick Touch microwave for review. Lakeland links are affiliate links, please see sidebar for more information.

 

This month’s Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream was a joint challenge hosted by me and Choclette – BSFIC meets We Should Cocoa. We asked you to give us your chocolatey frozen treats and you obliged!

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Image via Big Spud, provided by Waitrose

First up is this rather impressive Chocolate Passionfruit Baked Alaska from Gary at Big Spud. Using passion fruit to cut through the rich flavour of chocolate makes perfect sense.

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Next, Elizabeth over at Law Student Cookbook combines a classic pairing in her Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream. She used roasted hazelnuts to provide both flavour and crunch.

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Hannah at Honey & Dough made this lovely Frozen Creme Fraiche Brownie Custard. I love the idea of big chunks of chewy chocolate brownie mixed into the ice cream base, and creme fraiche surely gives a gorgeous tang!

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Janice at Farmersgirl Kitchen took inspiration from ingredients she found in her freezer, to make this White Chocolate Eton Mess Ice Cream. Love the dainty tea cup!

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Fellow host Choclette made these delicious Chocolate Ice Pops – chocolate ice cream in a coat of melted chocolate. Using good quality chocolate makes all the difference in recipes like this.

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Jo of Jos Kitchen made triple sure to get chocolate into her recipe with these Triple Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches. To a Jamie Oliver chocolate ice cream recipe, she added chocolate chips, and sandwiched the resulting ice cream between chocolate digestive biscuits.

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I’d never even heard of cake batter ice cream till I read Julia’s post on Something Missing but apparently it’s a thing in San Francisco. Julia used vanilla cake mix along with chocolate chips and folded the mixture into an Italian meringue to create her No Churn Birthday Cake Ice Cream.

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Johanna at the Green Gourmet Giraffe Blog made an amazing sounding Violet Crumble Ice Cream as part of her Australia Day celebrations – the ice cream includes broken up pieces of Violet Crumble, an Aussie chocolate-covered honeycomb bar stirred into a no churn condensed milk and cream base.

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My own entry tastes way better than the photograph might look – it’s an incredibly Rich, Dark & Dense Chocolate Ice Cream. I adapted a recipe I’d made previously on the stove to do the whole thing in my power blender, which worked really well. This mixture would make absolutely killer chocolate ice lollies aka fudgesicles.

Thank you everyone for joining us for our WeShouldBSFIC Mashup!

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I’ll post a theme for January’s BSFIC soon.

 

My initial plan, when Choclette and I set our joint #WeShouldBSFIC challenge for January, was an ice cream sandwich. I wanted to make chewy chocolate chip cookies and sandwich white chocolate vanilla ice cream between them. But every time I started scribbling potential recipe notes, my thoughts turned instead to a chocolate ice cream recipe I shared back in the summer of 2012; a rich, dense and wonderfully dark chocolate ice cream. I still remember the richness of that ice cream!

Like many no-churn recipes, it has a base of condensed milk and double cream (plus regular milk). Unlike most no-churn recipes, it’s not simply a case of folding together whipped condensed milk and cream, adding flavouring and popping into the freezer. It needs the milks and cream to be boiled, the chocolate (and other flavourings) to be melted and thoroughly mixed in, and then a flour thickener added before the mixture is cooked further until it’s so thick you can only just pour it from the pan to a plastic box.

I was keen to see if I could adapt the recipe to make it in my Froothie Optimum 9400. This power blender has such a jet engine of a motor that it not only blends but heats too – there’s no heating element but the friction of the blades at top speed will generate enough heat to make your mixture piping hot. Having already made an ice cream custard base in the Optimum 9400, for my silky smooth white chocolate vanilla ice cream, I was hopeful my adaptation would work.

When I took the ice cream out of the freezer,  I belatedly remembered how dense this ice cream is and how hard it is to scoop. We ended up popping the entire block out of the plastic box and cutting a slice off the end with a knife. It doesn’t look pretty, as the photographed side shows where it slid out of the box and the other side looked even stranger, from where the knife pushed through it.

That’s when I realised this recipe would  be utterly perfect for individual chocolate ice cream lollies, or fudgesicles as Americans call them. As soon as you cut into the ice cream with a spoon, it reveals it’s beautiful smooth texture, utterly silky in the mouth and with a hint of chewiness that reminds of the wonderful mastic ice creams of the Middle East. I took a bite straight out of the slice and oh yes indeed, this would be perfect on a lolly stick! Too bad I didn’t think of that 24 hours ago!

So please use your imagination to see past my appalling photo and trust me when I tell you that you should give this recipe a try.

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Rich, Dense & Dark Chocolate Ice Cream | Made in a Power Blender

Ingredients
200 grams sweetened condensed milk
100 grams whole milk
100 grams double cream
100 grams very dark chocolate, grated or finely chopped*
0.5 scant teaspoon instant coffee granules or powder
1 scant teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
Small pinch fine sea salt
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 tablespoon cold water

* Note: To save on washing up, use your power blender to “grate” the chocolate, then pour/ scrape it out of the jug and set it aside.

Method

  • Into the jug, pour the condensed milk, whole milk and double cream. Blend on high power until the mixture is steaming hot.
  • Add the chocolate, instant coffee, vanilla bean paste and salt. Blend on high power again until the chocolate melts and is fully mixed into the cream and milk.
  • In a small bowl, mix the flour and water into a smooth paste, then add to the blender.
  • Blend on high power for 4-5 minutes. The mixture should be thick and glossy.
  • Pour / scrape into a shallow freezer container, or better still, into individual lolly moulds or small paper cups, with lolly sticks inserted.
  • Transfer to the freezer overnight or until solid.
  • To serve, take out of the freezer 10 minutes ahead of scooping (or slicing).

This is my entry for the joint Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream and We Should Cocoa challenge, hosted by myself and Choclette.

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As I’ve mentioned before, I was given my Optimum 9400 along with the opportunity to be an ambassador for the Australian brand, as it breaks into the UK market. Hand on hearts, Pete and I have been enormously impressed with the blender, especially given the price when you compare it to market leaders like Vitamix; (you can read a comparison of the two, here). We’ve made super quick frozen fruit sorbets, delicious vegetable soups (which are blended and heated so quickly that they retain the fresh taste of the vegetables, an unexpected bonus), quick custards (both to enjoy as they are and freeze into ice cream), and we’ve also used it to grate, puree and blend. And yet we’re only at the start of our learning about all that it can do. I’ll continue to share my favourite Optimum 9400 recipes with you here on Kavey Eats. You can access them all via my Froothie tag.

Like this recipe? Here are a few more power blender recipes from fellow bloggers that caught my eye:

Kavey Eats received a review Optimum 9400 power blender from Froothie. Please see the right side bar for a special offer on buying the Optimum with an extended warranty via my affiliate link.

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