Partridge Pie with Sweet Chestnuts

Now fish cookery at Stamford College has finished my thoughts have turned Autumnal. The colour as the leaves have turned has been spectacular and the sweet chestnut tree in the park has been laden with fruit this year. A few well-informed locals (myself included) have been making the most of this free bounty. The walnut tree in my road has also been very generous with its harvest, but I haven’t decided what to do with them yet.

Partridge Pie

partridge

A serendipitous moment arrived in the form of my neighbour bearing a brace of partridge – he beats for a local shoot. I decided to make a pie with them because, well, that was what Karen said she would like – so of course I did!

Partridge Pie

I think it best to part roast game birds for a pie, it keeps the meat moist and tender. For partridge this means about 12 minutes in a hot oven (180°C). Let them rest (10 minutes) and then remove the breasts and legs. Both breast and legs must still be pink.

Partridge Pie

Separate thigh from drumstick and remove the thigh bone. Chop the drumsticks and carcasses and use to make stock and then gravy. The breast meat can be thickly sliced and this helps to keep it tender when cooked again in the pie.

Partridge Pie

I’ve forgotten how much fun what a chore it is peeling chestnuts, the slitting, roasting and peeling, but they had a wonderful taste; sweet and mealy. I put quite a few in each pie (I made three individual ones) and covered them with spelt flour rough puff. This was an experiment and not completely successful. The flour was a little to heavy to make a light flaky pastry, but I love the flavour of Nigel’s spelt flour from Whissendine windmill and wanted to try. The taste was really good. 

Partridge Pie

pheasant

My neighbour turned up again on Friday – this time with a brace of pheasant – happy autumnal days!

Partridge Pie

 

Fish Cookery Stamford College Week Five

Over the last four weeks we have poached, steamed, pan-fried, braised, skinned, trimmed, gutted and filleted round and flat fish. For this last session at New College Stamford we are going to be baking fish – a smoked haddock souffle in fact.

fish

A sweet soufflé is usually made with a pastry cream base, although fruit puree can be used too. We are making a savoury soufflé because I think it is more versatile – the sort of dish that actually you could make for a light supper; which Karen and I did :). We also had a few boiled potatoes and a tomato and chive salad on the side.

fish

Soufflé 

A savoury soufflé has a Béchamel base and in this case has natural smoked haddock lightly poached in the milk first.  Many people find the idea of making a soufflé a daunting prospect and whilst many chefs will tell you how easy it is, I actually fall somewhere in the middle. It is easy, provided a few guidelines are followed.  The first one is to line the mold or ramekin properly – this called to ‘chemise‘. I’ve added a link to save you googling through lots of lingerie sites – the culinary term is not the first option but you’ll understand where the term originates!

fish

Butter carefully twice, chilling in the fridge between coats. Use soft butter, not melted, and use upwards brush strokes. Don’t neglect the rim – an unevenly risen soufflé means the mold has been greased unevenly – simple! Dust the buttered ramekins with fine polenta, very fine breadcrumbs or finely grated Parmesan cheese; tap out any excess.

The egg whites must be whipped to a soft peak – no further, they become grainy and difficult to fold in smoothly. Fill the dishes to the top, level with a palette knife if the mix is thick enough and very gently run a finger around the inside of the dish to separate the mix from the edge of the dish. Do not scrape away the butter!

fish

Oven temperature must be precise – I checked mine with a separate thermometer.  Stick to the time in the recipe and do not open the door until the correct time has elapsed.  The soufflé should have a slight ‘wobble’ when risen indicating that it is not over-cooked. Serve ‘tout de suite’ an expression I have had shouted at me more than once in a busy kitchen; it means ‘immediately’! A soufflé waits for no man, women or child!

Provided these simple rules are followed, it is easy.  Bon courage :).

And a special thanks to Graham – I think the Sauvignon Blanc is a great choice and just what I would have recommended :-)

PS – I’ve amended the recipe slightly – the quantities here are correct for 3 ramekins.

Smoked Haddock Souffle
Print
Ingredients
  1. Makes 3 X No 1 ramekins - this is a first course size
  2. 12g butter (+ extra for greasing the ramekins)
  3. 125g natural smoked haddock
  4. 1 bay leaf
  5. 150g whole milk
  6. 12g plain flour
  7. 25g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
  8. 3g English mustard
  9. 2 eggs
  10. freshly milled pepper - you may not need salt, taste first
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven (assuming fan-assisted) to 160° C
  2. butter the ramekins twice with softened butter, chilling in the fridge between coats
  3. half fill with fine polenta and turn to evenly coat the sides and base, then tip the excess into the next ramekin and repeat - keep the ramekins in the fridge
  4. place the milk, haddock fillet and bay leaf in a pan and bring to the boil
  5. remove from the heat immediately, cover, and allow to cool - the fish will cook as it cools
  6. melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour - stir to make a roux
  7. strain the milk gradually onto the roux stirring, and then whisking to produce a smooth sauce
  8. add the cheese and mustard
  9. cook the sauce very gently for about 10 minutes and remove from the heat
  10. season to taste
  11. flake the smoked haddock discarding the skin and any bones
  12. separate the eggs - ensure the bowl for the egg whites is clean - a squeeze of lemon juice and dry with a kitchen towel is a good idea - any grease and the egg whites will not whisk up
  13. add the egg yolks and flaked haddock to the sauce, stirring well
  14. whisk the egg whites to soft peaks
  15. add a ¼ of the whisked whites to the sauce, stirring them in (this helps to loosen the mix making it easier to fold in the rest
  16. fold the rest of the egg whites into the sauce using a gentle 'up and over' motion - it's essential to keep all the air in the egg whites
  17. Fill the ramekins to the top ensuring the mix is just free of the edge
  18. Bake for 16 minutes - do not open the oven door during this time!
tasteandlight http://tasteandlight.com/

 

Fish Cookery Stamford College Week Four

A lack of plaice at the weekend means that the photographs will be from tonight’s lesson at New College Stamford should be fun, I’m not the best multi tasker in the world!

fish

Whole plaice will be the first flat fish we have worked with and the skills we will be learning are trimming, skinning, leaving one half whole to braise in the oven and filleting the other half.

fish

The half to be braised will be placed in a buttered dish with chopped shallots and cider. Covered with buttered grease-proof paper the fish will take about 10 minutes to cook in an oven at 180°C. We can tell when the fish is cooked by carefully inserting a small knife at the head end and gently easing the fish away from the bone.  If it still clings a little, that’s fine – we need to keep it warm whilst we finish the sauce and it will carry on cooking as we complete the dish.

fish

The sauce is a simple reduction of the cooking liquor by about half.  Single cream is added along with a little chopped parsley (or tarragon, chives etc), a little wholegrain mustard and seasoned to taste.  Don’t forget to add the juices that will have come out of the resting plaice.  We are aiming for a quite thin, light sauce (which is why we are using single cream, Crème fraîche  would be a good alternative) that doesn’t overwhelm the mild flavour of the fish.

fish

We are serving leeks étuvée with the fish – cream and mustard go well with leeks too and cooking them gently in a little water and butter does wonders for the taste. It’s also worth mentioning a good tip for washing leeks. Once sliced, immerse them in a bowl of warm water – this helps to loosen the dirt from the leaves much more easily than cold water.  Don’t tip into a colander to drain – instead, carefully lift the leeks out into a colander leaving the dirt behind at the bottom of the bowl.

It’ll be interesting to see how the photographs turn out – teaching, cooking and photographing at the same time? Mmmm, we’ll see!

Market Harborough Living Magazine Cover

I was delighted to have my autumnal image of hedgerow fruits used as this months cover for Market Harborough Living magazine.  The fruits were all picked within a seven mile cycle through Rutland’s bucolic lanes.

The berries are: wild plum, crab-apple, sloes, hawthorn, guelder, rowan, rose-hips, bramble and elder.  They all have a culinary use – but some are better than others! Wild Food School has some useful information here.

Although this looks like a large bowl of fruit, I actually used a cereal bowl. The crab-apples in particular were tiny, not much bigger than the blackberries!

 Market Harborough

Fish Cookery Stamford College Week Three

At Stamford College tonight we will be preparing a favourite of mine – salmon ‘in parchment’ (en papillote). This method of cooking fish is a great way of locking in lots of flavour as well as providing a bit of theatre when the salmon is served.

Fish, salmon en papillote

 

The timings need to be quite precise however; the aim is to have ‘just cooked’ fish.  The vegetables and herbs provide additional layers of flavour and help provide the steam needed to cook the fish and inflate the parcel.

Fish,salmon en papillote-1-2

Fish

Fish, salmon en papilloteSteaming is beneficial and fun

Heat from the steam is gentle and uniform. It slowly diffuses through the food and lets the fish cook in its own juices thus helping to retain texture and flavor. Valuable nutrients, vitamins and minerals are retained as well. The food will also be moist and fresh – and best of all, kitchen mess is minimal!

Fish, julienne vegetables

 

I like to used tin foil on the inside – it provides a better seal than just parchment, but foil on its own doesn’t look very attractive when served at the table.  The idea is to cut open the parcel at the table so the beautiful aromas that steam out can be fully appreciated.  A good seal is also essential to ensure the bag puffs up and browns slightly on top – this looks so much more attractive when served than just a scrunched-up foil packet.

Fish, salmon en papillote

The vegetables need to be finely shredded so that they cook quickly  – they need to be ready when the fish is. Tarragon goes well with salmon – but fresh basil, chives, dill, fennel or thyme could also be used successfully. 

Fish, salmon en papillote

Salmon En Papillote
Print
Ingredients
  1. 140g skinned salmon fillet
  2. 10g unsalted butter
  3. 25g julienne leek
  4. 25g julienne carrot
  5. 25g celeriac
  6. 20g finely chopped shallot
  7. 2g fresh tarragon
  8. 30g dry vermouth or dry sherry or dry white wine
Instructions
  1. pre-heat the oven to 225°C
  2. cut a piece of tin foil and grease-proof paper a little large than the diameter of a dinner plate
  3. place half the butter on one half of the tin foil
  4. put the chopped shallots on the butter
  5. place the salmon on top of the shallots and season
  6. put the julienne vegetables on top of the salmon
  7. top with the tarragon and dry vermouth
  8. put the remaining butter on top and seal the parcel
  9. place on a baking sheet and put in the centre of a pre-heated oven for 10 minutes
  10. open the parcels in front of your guests and let them enjoy the aromas!
Notes
  1. the salmon should be slightly opaque when cooked
  2. cooking 2 parcels together won't affect the time but 3-4 parcels will need 3-4 minutes longer
tasteandlight http://tasteandlight.com/
Fish, art in food photography

 

Fish Cookery Stamford College Week Two

Sea bream is one of those meaty fish that really benefits from being cooked with the skin on. Whole is great, but filleted gives the opportunity to get a really  delicious crunchy skin.

Fish

New College Stamford.

This is what we will be cooking tonight at Stamford College for week two of my fish cookery course.  Not quite so easy to fillet as last weeks mackerel – the bones in sea bream are stronger and of course there is that spiky dorsal fin to remove first – painful if one of the spines stabs you! 

Fish

Preparing Sea Bream.

Because we will be eating the skin we need to remove the scales. It is much easier to do this when the fish is whole and before gutting. It’s one of those messy kitchen jobs that can have you discovering fish scales in strange places for days afterwards!  One way to control the scales and prevent them getting airborne is to place the fish head first into a carrier bag and scrape the scales towards the head (with a blunt knife) and into the bag.  I won’t pretend it’s completely fiddle free, but it helps.

Fish

Once filleted the key to a crispy skin is to pat the fillet dry with kitchen paper, heat a teaspoon of oil in a frying pan (non-stick is best – you won’t need so much oil) and place the fillet in skin side down and then leave it alone!  Let it cook on a medium heat almost completely on the skin side and resist the urge to poke, prod or otherwise disturb the fish. Leaving the fillet alone gives the skin a good chance to stay in one piece – continually moving the fish can tear the skin and have bits sticking to the pan.  Just flip the fillet over at the end for a few seconds to seal the top and you’re done.

Fish

 Cooking fish this way really suits robust flavours and this combination is one of my favourites. Essentially a quick stir fry of that trinity of Chinese ingredients – spring onions, ginger and garlic, flash fried with a little chilli (or red pepper) and finished with a generous dash of soy sauce. I like to use Kikkoman’s but Japanese tamari shoyu is wheat free if gluten is a problem.

Fish

 

Sea Bream with Fresh Ginger & Soy
Print
Ingredients
  1. 60g (approximately 3) finely sliced spring onions
  2. 3g thinly sliced garlic
  3. 5g thinly sliced red chilli
  4. 15g thinly shredded fresh ginger
  5. 30g (2 tbsp) sunflower or groundnut oil
  6. 30g soy sauce
Instructions
  1. heat the oil in a pan
  2. just as it starts to smoke throw in the spring onions, garlic, ginger and chilli
  3. stir fry for just a few seconds
  4. remove from the heat, add the soy sauce and pour immediately over the fish
Notes
  1. quantities are approximate - you might prefer more, or less, of chilli, garlic etc
  2. have the fish ready to serve on warm plates before you start
  3. ideal served with steam rice and tender-stem broccoli
tasteandlight http://tasteandlight.com/

Fish Cookery Stamford College Week One

Tonight is the first night of Cooking Fish Made Easy at New College Stamford.  We start by learning how to fillet a round fish – in this case mackerel – and what to look for when buying fresh fish.  Filleting is a lot easier than most people imagine and only takes a few minutes with a bit of practice.  

fish

Being able to tell the difference between a really fresh fish and one that is a little older is very important.  Unfortunately most of us have to buy our fish from the supermarket and whilst in itself this is not necessarily a bad thing, the usual response to the question ‘how fresh is it?’ is answered by ‘it came in yesterday’.  Great, but when was it caught?  This is what we need to know – not when the store took delivery.

fish

 So, we must look for bright, glossy, shiny eyes that look fresh and have not shrunk into the skull.  Gills that are bright, red and have a little slime on them.  A firm body with shiny scales and a coating of slime – not dry and limp.  Usually you can see all of this without having to touch the fish and you can ask the counter assistant to show you the gills.

fish

The method of cooking tonight is lightly poached.  By which I mean bring a shallow pan of water to the boil, add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice, a pinch of salt and a bay-leaf.  Turn off the heat completely, add the fish and leave for five minutes.  The fish will be beautifully cooked, moist – not dry.

fish

We will make a simple dressing to complement the mackerel – red grapefruit, fennel, shallot and tarragon with a little olive oil, sea salt and freshly milled black pepper.  Very light and colourful  and the acidity balances the oiliness of the fish, which is further reduced by poaching.  Oranges would work equally well as would dill instead of tarragon.  A light, healthy and economical dish. 

fish

Poached Mackerel with red grapefruit
Print
Ingredients
  1. serves 4
  2. 1 mackerel per person for a main course
  3. 1 red grapefruit
  4. 1 small bulb of fennel
  5. 1 banana shallot
  6. small bunch of tarragon
  7. extra virgin olive oil
  8. sea salt
  9. freshly milled black pepper
Instructions
  1. Make the dressing before poaching the fish.
  2. carefully segment the grapefruit and cut each segment into 3
  3. slice as thinly as possible, or shave, the fennel
  4. peel and slice as thinly as possible the shallot
  5. gently combine grapefruit, fennel and shallot with olive oil to taste - you don't need a lot
  6. *this can be done up to 3 hours in advance*
  7. whilst the fish is cooking season the dressing to taste and divide between 4 plates
  8. scatter the tarragon leaves and place two fillets of mackerel on top
Notes
  1. one fillet is enough for a first course
  2. serve with new potatoes for a main course
tasteandlight http://tasteandlight.com/

Carrot, Sweet Potato and Orange Soup

Nice to be able to walk upright again and I no longer need to apply pressure from time to time causing concerned / curious looks from people!  The scar matches an earlier one in length – about 5 inches, so not exactly keyhole. Combined it looks like I am inscribed with a lucky ‘7’.  One more and it’ll look as if Zorro has paid a visit!  Clearly after this you need carrot, sweet potato and orange soup – recipe below – and if you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about (and I wouldn’t blame you) watch the video! By the way, this soup is just as good chilled – ideal for the Indian summer we are having here.  Well we are today anyway.

carrot, sweet potato and orange soup

 

 

 

  Apparently the humorous acronyms and abbreviations below have been found written on people’s hospital notes – I don’t think any of them were on mine – well maybe the first one.  The hospital was great although they did ask me repeatedly where the hernia was and got my confirmation as the surgeon marked a black cross on the spot.  I think they knew really  and were just testing me – good job it wasn’t something complicated, I’d hate to have to wave vaguely at an area, and say ‘it’s in there somewhere, fingers crossed’!

GFPO – Good For Parts Only.

MFC – Measure For Coffin.

ART – Assuming Room Temperature (recently deceased).

carrot, sweet potato and orange soup

Laughter – the best medicine?

Oh, and a reminder when laughter is not the best medicine – any internal injury!  I should have known better than to watch a comedy program a couple of days later…Years ago, recovering from multi fractured ribs I saw Good Morning Vietnam in Hospital. The late Robin Williams at his best and I couldn’t stop watching – never mind I watched the entire film with my arms wrapped around my torso desperately trying to hold everything in place.  I did feel much happier afterwards though!

carrot, sweet potato and orange soup

carrot, sweet potato and orange soup

Carrot, Sweet Potato and Orange Soup
Print
Ingredients
  1. Makes 6 - 8 portions
  2. 40g sunflower oil
  3. 45g unsalted butter
  4. 10g fresh ginger, chopped
  5. 1.5g coriander seeds, lightly crushed in a pestle and mortar
  6. 1.5g cumin seeds, lightly crushed in a pestle and mortar
  7. 600g peeled and chopped carrots
  8. 600g peeled and chopped sweet potato
  9. 2200g water
  10. 350g fresh orange chunks - peeled and all pith removed
  11. sea salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste
To serve
  1. Greek yogurt and lightly toasted cumin seeds
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil and butter and when the butter starts to sizzle add the ginger, coriander and cumin
  2. cook gently for two minutes to release the flavour from the spices
  3. add the carrots and sweet potato and tumble in the buttery spice mix
  4. add 200g of the water, cover the pot with a lid and cook over a very low heat for 30 minutes until the vegetables are soft - check and stir from time to time, don't allow to colour
  5. add the remaining 2000g of water and the fresh orange chunks
  6. bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes
  7. remove from the heat and puree until smooth
  8. season to taste
  9. serve with a dollop of yogurt and a scattering of toasted cumin seeds
Notes
  1. 1000g of water is equivalent to 1000ml - or 1 litre. I use a very accurate set of scales and 'tare' to zero between ingredients, hence everything is weighed in grams which is the most accurate and easy to replicate method
tasteandlight http://tasteandlight.com/

Spelt Soda Bread with Dates & Walnuts

The Windmill

 

Behold! a giant am I!
  Aloft here in my tower,
  With my granite jaws I devour
The maize, and the wheat, and the rye,
  And grind them into flour. 

And while we wrestle and strive,
  My master, the miller, stands
  And feeds me with his hands;
For he knows who makes him thrive,
  Who makes him lord of lands. 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (abbreviated)

spelt

For all their seeming impracticability in today’s landscape  there is something wonderful about an old windmill. The gentle revolution of the sails slowly turning the massive millstones, the runner-stone on top of the bedstone, sails, belts and cogs working together to produce finely milled flour.

spelt soda bread

Lined with a soft patina of flour Whissendine mill produces only organic flour, wheat and spelt.  The miller, Nigel Moon, mills slowly in the traditional way.  The grains need to be kept cool when milled and speed produces friction which produces heat.  Too much heat and vital nutrients are lost.  Modern mills with their steel rollers are efficient only in that they are fast. Stone milled flour has been found to be higher in thiamin than steel rolled flour.

Spelt

Spelt

Spelt (Triticum Spelta) is an ancient grain with recorded use dating back approximately 5000 years BC. Related to wheat it is however much lower in gluten and many people who have difficulty with wheat bread and pasta find that spelt does not cause the same reaction.  It is an original grain, unmodified and disease resistant.  Spelt contains more protein, fats and crude fibre than wheat and its high water solubility mean vital substances are quickly absorbed by the body.  It is however lower yielding than wheat flour which caused a decline in commercial popularity.  In 1850 in Germany in 94% of cereal acreage was spelt compared to 5% wheat.

Spelt soda bread

 Nigel has been a miller all his life and has rebuilt Whissendine windmill from the 1980’s onwards. Built originally in 1809, there is always something to renovate or repair.  This seemingly bucolic way of life is a labour of love, not just for milling grain but for the windmill itself.

spelt

The light inside the mill is wonderful. With three windows on each floor and soft white walls the interior has a natural sepia tone throughout. The raw images were converted to black and white in Silver Efex Pro accentuating softness and subtlety and producing timeless still life images that could have been taken 100 years ago. 

spelt

 I knew I wouldn’t be able to change lenses once inside so used only my Tamron 24-70 f2.8.  Just as well – my camera needed a really good dusting off once outside and reassuring that manufacturers stress the weather and dust sealing of their cameras – in this case Nikon D800.

spelt bread

But the proof of the pudding (in this case the bread) is in the recipe.  Less finely milled than mass produced spelt flour, Nigel’s flour produces a deliciously nutty loaf with a wonderful crumb and texture. 

windmills

spelt soda bread

windmills

Spelt Date & Walnut Soda Bread
Print
Soda Bread
  1. 450g spelt flour
  2. 20g honey
  3. 7g fine sea salt
  4. 8g bicarbonate of soda
  5. 5g cream of tartar
  6. 350g buttermilk
  7. 60g chopped walnuts
  8. 60g chopped dates
Soda Bread
  1. pre-heat the oven to 200°C
  2. sift the flour into a bowl with the honey, salt, soda, cream of tartar, dates & walnuts
  3. make a well in the centre
  4. pour in the buttermilk, mixing with one hand and working from the side of the bowl inwards, turning the bowl the opposite way
  5. the dough should be soft, but not too wet and sticky
  6. as soon as it holds, turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly into a bowl and place on a lightly floured baking sheet
  7. cut a deep cross into the top of the loaf all the way to the bottom
  8. bake in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes
  9. the bread should sound hollow when tapped on the base
tasteandlight http://tasteandlight.com/

Apps, Fishing, Catapults & Jam

 apps, fishing, catapults and jam

 Apps

I have a problem with vanishing apps, one minute they’re there, the next they’re not. Sometimes they just go walkabout – migrating to a different screen, or else they just vanish altogether into what I assume to be the app equivalent of a black hole.  Years ago it was biro’s which vanished seemingly off the face of the planet, in the 21st century it’s apps.

Apps, Fishing, Catapults & Jam

I’d had enough and decided to use a screen lock. With a choice of three – pin number, draw a pattern on the screen or face recognition I foolishly opted for the latter.  It seemed simple enough, just lift the phone up and let the camera recognise my face.  It worked during the daytime but I’m in the habit of picking my phone up when I wake in the morning.  Apparently I don’t look the same!  To be fair I agree with my phone, it’s not a good look and I barely recognised myself either…drawing a pattern works in a nicely non-judgemental way and doesn’t leave me feeling depressed before I’ve even got out of bed in the morning.

apps, fishing, catapults & jam

Fishing

If this is a downside of technology, I was reminded of the upside a couple of weeks ago when my grandson came to stay.  I took him fishing – his first time – and bought him his own rod to get him started.  My dad used to fish with cane rods, my first rod was a basic glass fibre job with a reel which kept me occupied more with untangling line than catching fish.  M started with a carbon fibre carp whip. Incredibly light, sections just slide out and no reel.  Very sensitive and perfect for catching crucian carp – which the little tinker did, by the bucketload;  50 to be precise. Not bad for a soon to be 7 year old. I’m hoping I’ve got him hooked and he will get the same mix of peace and excitement fishing has given me over the years.

apps, fishing, catapults & jam

Catapults

When we had finished fishing we made catapults…

apps, fishing, catapults and jam

Jam 

After he’d gone and still feeling nostalgic in a late summer kind of way Karen and I went plum and blackberry foraging to make jam. It looks like it’s going to be another good year.  I’m truly indebted to  Erica at North West Edible Life for tips and advice on making low sugar, pectin free jam. Last years jams were too sweet, this years are more in line with the Bonne Mamman softly set and slightly tart jams.  Erica makes some great suggestions for spicing up jams too – no recipes here this time, she explains it so well there is really no point.  Go blackberry picking (and anything else you can lay your hands on) and head over to her blog for spot on jamming info.

apps, fishing, catapults & jam

 

 

 

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