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When life gives you eggs….

8 May

… you make Genoise sponge cake

  • Five fresh laid eggs, all slightly different muted colours, in a bowl, sitting atop a stripey crocheted blanket

I keep hens, more hens than is entirely sensible, and some weeks they lay an average of 7 or 8 eggs a day. This means that I never need worry about not having something to eat for supper – poached egg on toast is a popular midweek standby, as is a frittata, tortilla or omelette of sorts. I now regularly throw an egg into a cheese sauce as I make it, to give it extra richness, or quickly make mayonnaise just because I have some spare eggs kicking about.

In the pre-Covid Era I took eggs in to work for colleagues to enjoy, but that’s not possible now we are all in lockdown. Last week we offered a delivery driver a half a dozen eggs and at first he looked quite affronted, and said no he was doing alright just now, just managing thank you very much, and they’d managed to do a shop that week. I had to tell him they were laid that morning, from our free range hens, and he would be doing us a favour. He took them, I hope he enjoyed them.

But there are lots of other things you can do with eggs, including the miraculous Genoise sponge cake. It really is a magical creation – just eggs, sugar, plain flour and a wee bit of butter, but combined in such a way that it creates a properly light as a feather sponge cake. And of course you can pimp it however you want, you could swap out some of the flour for cocoa, or add citrus zest to the batter, or brush over a flavoured sugar syrup once the cake is cool. But I’m jumping ahead of myself, let’s just make the basic perfect light Genoise sponge today, and fill it with clouds of whipped cream and some fresh strawberry jam.

Genoise Sponge Cake

Ingredients

I’ve kept the ingredients weights in Imperial because they are so deliciously simple to remember, and it’s how I make it. Sorry if you prefer cups or grams, but on this occasion I’m not doing equivalents.

  • 4 eggs (obviously I would suggest using free range really fresh ones, but honestly use whatever suits you, probably medium/large in size)
  • 4 oz caster sugar (use vanilla sugar if you have any)
  • 4 oz plain flour
  • 2 oz butter

Method

Prepare your tin or tins. Ideally you would lightly grease the tin and line it with baking paper, but you could probably get away with lightly greasing and then sprinkling with flour (then give it a shake to evenly spread the flour around the tin, creating a non-stick layer). You can use two sandwich tins, or a springform 8″/20cm tin. You know what, you can use whatever tin you’ve got, obviously! It makes life easier when you’re getting the cake in and out of the oven if you place your tin/s on top of a baking sheet.

Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 4 / 350F / 180C

  1. Melt your butter and then leave it to one side as you do everything else so it cools a bit.
  2. Crack the whole eggs into a big bowl, and add the caster sugar.
  3. Using electric beaters, whisk this until it becomes thick and luscious, you’re looking for what is technically called the thick ribbon stage. This means that when you lift the beaters out, and leave a trail of mixture in the bowl, the trail holds its shape. I use handheld electric beaters at their full power, and it usually takes about 8 minutes to reach this stage. Remember, if the trail doesn’t hold, then there’s no chance your cake will hold its sponge in the oven, and you’ll end up with a pancake.
  4. Now find yourself a large balloon whisk. Don’t have one? Use a large metal spoon instead.
  5. Sift the flour into the eggs in three batches. After each addition, fold it in really gently, you’re looking to incorporate it into the light egg mix without bashing out any of the airiness you’ve worked so hard to create.
  6. Once you’ve added all the flour, take your melted butter and very gently pour the yellow liquid round the edge of the bowl. Stop pouring before you pour in the white liquid milk protein – it doesn’t matter if some goes in, so don’t fret too much about it.
  7. Now gently fold the melted butter into the mixture before gently pouring the cake batter into the prepared tin or tins.
  8. Gently slide the tin/s into your oven and bake for 35 – 40 mins (because all ovens are not equal). The cake’s ready when a skewer inserted comes out clean as a whistle. Also note how it’s beginning to come away from the edges of the tin. And while you’re at it, turn off the radio or podcast or music, or loud children, when you take it out of the oven. Listen to it. I love that noise.
  9. Turn the cake/s out onto a wire rack to cool.
  10. Fill with your choice of tasty fillings – my favourite is the traditional combination of creaminess and fruitiness, but if you’re a fan of buttercream, go for it.

Want to make more cakey things? What about a Springtime Apple cake (no idea why it’s particularly suitable for springtime, but who is to question Past Shewolffe?) or if it’s biscuits you’re after, these Langues De Chat are amazing, and use up a spare egg white. Or just browse for yourself here.

The easiest ice cream (with a hit of sweet, salt and smokiness)

1 Jan

I love a new recipe. I particularly love something that is ridiculously simple, and also easily adapted. Or pimped.

This is one such recipe. If you’re looking for sweet and salty, creamy and sophisticated, while also being so simple that a small child could make it with hardly any instructions, and little supervision, then this is your recipe.

20191215_115358

Tubs of grown up ice cream

I first saw Nigella make a version of it on one of her eponymous Christmas cookery shows, so all credit goes to her for this deliciousness. Feel free to channel her energy and lick the spoon like you were 5 years old all over again.

Apologies that I’m posting this on 1 January, which for most people is probably a week too late, as it would make a nice easy Christmas dessert (though by that time of the meal, I’m usually craving a simple fruit salad instead of rich creamy ice cream). And of course it would be an ace thing to have tucked away in your freezer for Hogmanay – make it days in advance, when you’ve got oodles of cream left over from Christmas. And impress your guests with your back to basics cookery skills. No sous vide or expensive ice cream maker required.

Ingredients

  • A large tin (397g) of condensed milk CARAMEL (it’s the equivalent of Dulce de Leche)
  • 300ml double cream
  • Sea salt (the kind that comes in crystals, try Maldon, but other brands are available). I used some smoked salt, which seems readily available at my local supermarkets in rural Scotland
  • Whisky (or your other favourite spirit). I used a smoky, peaty malt which we had in the back of the drinks cupboard, and which complemented the smokiness of the sweet saltiness

Directions

  1. Dollop the caramel into a big bowl
  2. Pour in all of the cream and give it all a good stir
  3. Now start whipping it. I use a hand held electric beater, but if you’ve got a free standing electric mixer obviously use that. Or build up your muscles with a bit of elbow grease and use a balloon whisk. Anyway, however you do it, whisk it till you get luscious soft peaks. You’ll want to stick your finger in now and taste a dollop. Go on, you’re allowed.
  4. Stir in a couple of teaspoons of sea salt, and pour in a good glug of whisky. You NEED to taste it at this stage, as you want to make sure you can taste some of the salt coming through.
  5. Pour in more whisky. Why not?
  6. Stir it all up – give it another whisk if it needs it, but you don’t want to whisk it beyond the soft pillowy peaks or you’ll end up with some disgusting butter-like substance.
  7. Spoon it into a freezer proof dish, and pop it in the freezer.
  8. Feel smug as you lick the bowl.

This would be lovely served with a simple shortbread biscuit, or even a caraway biscuit, which it so happens I have a recipe for!

Feel free to experiment and make it with various other spirits which are lurking in the back of our drinks cupboard. And if you don’t want the caramelly flavour, just use ordinary condensed milk.

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Whisking up some smoky, salty, sweet ice cream

 

 

Miss Morgan’s Butterscotch Sauce

4 Mar

I asked Mum about Miss Morgan a wee while ago, as I only have vague (but good) memories of her. She lived along the road from our house and occasionally babysat for us. I’m not sure why she looked after us, as our usual babysitter was Rachel, who was tall and manly and lived with the wee feminine Emily. Rachel and Emily were sisters; they had loved and lost during The War, and hence lived with one another, or that was what we were told.

Miss Winifred Morgan to my childhood self seemed sweet and kind, but with something more about her, perhaps she was secretly a Miss Marple? The other day Mum said that she had been a nurse and that she had worked in Egypt, possibly training or setting up nursing there…

My most concrete memory of Miss Morgan is her butterscotch sauce recipe. I think she was looking after us over a weekend, and to go with ice cream she taught me how to make butterscotch sauce. This was a revelation – until then I think we only had stewed fruit, or jelly with ice cream. Or on special occasions we would have a tin of fruit salad – but I sense that Mum avoided this at all costs as it would only cause arguments about who got they sole pink cherry from the tin. Butterscotch sauce seemed utterly exotic. And there was unexpected DANGER in making it.

Butterscotch sauce

  • 4oz sugar (just granulated is fine)
  • a scant 1/2 pint of water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 dessert spoon golden syrup
  • 1 TBsp cornflour
  • 2 TBsp cold water
  • 1/2 oz butter
  • a few sultanas
  1. Measure the sugar into a dry heavy based saucepan
  2. Stir over a moderate heat until it melts and turns golden
  3. Now here is the fun DANGER part: take your pan off the heat and pour in the 1/2 pint of water. It will all sizzle and bubble and steam, and then the sugar will seize and solidify on the base of the pan. That’s ok
  4. Put it back on a low heat and stir gently, until the sugar is all dissolved
  5. Add the salt, vanilla, syrup and stir
  6. Mix the cornflour and cold water together in a wee cup or mug, and then pour into the pan, stirring as you pour
  7. Bring back to the boil, stirring all the time, so the sauce thickens nicely
  8. Take off the heat, and add the butter. Stir till it is all melted in
  9. Add the sultanas if you want them. You could also add some rum, brandy or whisky at this stage to turn it into grown up butterscotch sauce.

Pour warm over vanilla ice cream. I’d say ‘the best vanilla ice cream you can afford’ but actually this would be pretty good over any vanilla ice cream, even the cheap stuff. That’s definitely what we had back in the 1970s, if only because that was all there was available at Brydens, our local shop.

Nowadays I guess I would probably sprinkle some salt flakes over the top too, to make it salted butterscotch, making that exquisite sweet-salty combo. I might use a bit more butter too. Just because.

It would also be delicious on warm gingerbread, a bit like a sticky toffee pudding. But I’m just saying that because I have a gingerbread in the oven.

There’s another butterscotch sauce recipe here, a more modern one, probably not created by a wee lady who was probably born over 100 years ago now. And if sweet treats aren’t your thing, why not look through the other delights I’ve been rustling up in my kitchen, here.

More delicious things to do with blackcurrants

14 Aug

Blackcurrants.

When you have a glut of them you REALLY have a glut of them.

I have a couple of wee blackcurrant bushes which are ignored for most of the year and this year were surrounded by chest high grass, nettles and dock leaves. I was sure there would be nothing to harvest. But of course I was wrong. Deliciously wrong.

I cropped the whole branches, placed them in my wicker trug and carried them upstairs to our terrace one evening, and spent a gentle hour picking the fruit, topping and tailing it ready for cooking. The swallows were swooping and swooshing around our heads, sometimes below us, sometimes so close we could feel the rush of air as they changed course just before their wings brushed our faces. It’s a glorious way to spend a summer evening, and the memory of it keeps me warm through the winter.

The blackcurrants this year were destined to be drinks, one alcoholic and one not.

My Mum has made blackcurrant cordial for years and I feel that in my late 40s perhaps it is time for me to give it a go. I have no children to turn their noses up at it, as it isn’t their usual brand (I always wished we had REAL Ribena when I was a child, not this wannabe pretender. Little did I know how lucky I was).

So, I searched for the perfect blackcurrant cordial recipe and settled for one by Henry Dimbleby, who started the Leon chain of fabulous eateries. I have four Leon books, but of course found this recipe online on the Guardian website. You can read the original here if you want to.  The recipe is pretty simple, but does include the addition of citric acid, which is a natural preservative, but also adds a zesty acidic zing to the juice. Citric acid is a natural compound, found in citrus fruit (of course!) but these days it is mass-produced as a chemical compound, and is more commonly known as E330 on food labels.

Blackcurrant cordial

  • 500g blackcurrants, topped and tailed
  • 275g sugar
  • 250ml water
  • 1/2 tsp citric acid
  1. Put the blackcurrants, sugar and water into a heavy-based pan, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes
  2. Get your potato masher out and bash the fruity smoosh, breaking up as much of the fruit as you can
  3. Add the citric acid and boil for another 2 minutes
  4. Place a muslin cloth in a sieve (preferably a plastic one) and pour the fruity mixture into the sieve and leave to drip through .Don’t bother squishing it with a spoon or anything. Just leave it. Go pour yourself a gin and tonic, you probably deserve one
  5. Once it’s stopped dripping (I left mine overnight) throw out the detritus in the muslin cloth; keep the muslin and wash it, ready for another day.
  6. Decant the thick silky juice into a clean bottle and label it up, so you know this is the BC cordial and not the hooch. You don’t want to get that wrong, trust me!
  7. Dilute with water or sparkling water fora  refreshing summery drink. Or with prosecco if it’s cocktail hour already, which it must be somewhere.

But I also wanted to make a blackcurrant liqueur. And wouldn’t you know, there was a handy recipe in this month’s Good Food magazine.  Well, the recipe was for a Bramble liqueur, but it can be adapted for blackcurrants when I have a glut of blackcurrants and the brambles aren’t ripe yet.

So here you go:

Blackcurrant hooch (or boozy ‘bena)

  • 600g blackcurrants, topped and tailed (you could use frozen if that is all you can get hold of)
  • a bottle of good red wine
  • 500g sugar
  • some vodka or gin (the original recipe I now notice only asked for a large glass of vodka/gin but I poured in ahem a whole bottle)
  1. Put the currants into a large plastic or glass bowl and pour over the wine. Get that trusty potato masher out again and crush the fruit as much as you can. Cover the bowl with a tea towel (this keeps it dark-ish and keeps out all the flies we are plagued with this summer) and leave for a few days. Give it another smoosh with the potato masher every 24 hours or so.
  2. Pour the mixture through a plastic sieve lined with a piece of muslin.
  3. Tip the juice into a heavy-based pan and add the sugar. Actually it probably doesn’t really matter if your pan isn’t a heavy-based one – don’t avoid making this hooch just for the sake of an expensive pan.
  4. Heat up slowly, stirring occasionally. Once the sugar has dissolved bring toa boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Leave to cool and then pour in the vodka or gin. As much as you think is appropriate. I suspect my version with the large volume of vodka is not entirely appropriate, but we’ll see.
  6. Use a small jug, or a funnel and pour into clean dry bottles.
  7. Seal and label.
  8. It’s ready for drinking straight away, or you can put a ribbon round it and feel proud that you’ve made some Christmas presents already.

My blackcurrant ripple ice-cream recipe is here if this isn’t what tickles your sweet fancy today.

I hate marmalade

10 Feb

I don’t like marmalade.

I’ve never liked marmalade.

I went through these two statements in my head the other day, and then I thought to myself, ‘But perhaps I do’. You see, because I have known all my life that I don’t like marmalade, I’ve never tried it again since I was about 7 years old.

So then I started thinking about children not liking food, and how you should get the kids involved in cooking using the ingredients they think they don’t like. And then voila! They will at least try them. And quite possibly like them, as they are so proud of what they have made.

You know where I’m going with this, don’t you? The farm shop had lovely looking seville oranges, and I decided to test my hatred of marmalade, by making a big vat of the stuff.

I LOVE making preserves, and have several cookbooks devoted just to that, in addition to various back to basics cookbooks and family cookbooks which I was certain would have good recipes. I consulted my go-to website for finding recipes eatyourbooks. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but if you haven’t read that post, then I’ll tell you about it again – if, like me, you have many cookbooks and no longer have an encyclopaedic knowledgeable of exactly what recipes are in which. Register them on the website, and you’ll be able to search for recipes, or on particular ingredients, and it will tell you which books or magazines will have the recipes you are seeking.

So, I narrowed my choice down to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, or Thane Prince.  And Thane won (and not only because I follow her on twitter, but because I love her no-nonsense recipes with her explanations of WHY you do certain things).

But of course, being me, I didn’t exactly follow the recipe word for word – I didn’t have enough granulated sugar in the cupboard and was determined not to go back out to the shops again, so I substituted with a mix of caster and dark brown muscovado sugar.

Orange and ginger marmalade

From Jams and Chutneys by Thane Prince. If you are even vaguely interested in preserving, buy this book – it covers the basic techniques and then delicious recipes for everything from an every day raspberry jam, through frozen cranberry vodka to smoky barbecue sauce.

  • 1.25kg Seville oranges, scrubbed in warm water
  • 115g fresh ginger, cut into 1″ nubs and then crushed
  • 1.5kg unrefined sugar (I used 3/4 caster sugar; 1/4 muscovado)
  • 200g jar stem ginger preserved in syrup, drained and chopped into slivers (keep the syrup – you’ll need it later)

You will also need a large muslin square, a big heavy based pan and preferably a jam thermometer (although this is not necessary)

  1. After scrubbing the oranges pop them whole into a large heavy-based pan, with the smashed lumps of ginger and 8 cups of water
  2. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer for about 45mins till the fruit is soft and squishy
  3. Using a holey willie (this is what we call a slotted spoon in my family!) remove the ginger and the fruit from the pan – put it in a big bowl
  4. Pour the liquid into a jug to see how much you have – if you need to, add more water to make up to 6 cups and put it back in the pot.
  5. Add the sugar to the pot, and let it start to dissolve (off the heat) while you are processing the oranges
  6. Before you do anything else, pop a side plate into the freezer, or the icebox of your fridge (this will make sense later)
  7. Now, sit yourself down, put on the radio and get to work on the oranges. You’ll need a bowl lined with the muslin square, a wee sharp knife, a soup spoon, a chopping board and the bowl of oranges
  8. Cut the oranges in half, and scoop out all the pith and the seeds and the orangey goodness into the muslin lined bowl. Once all the oranginess is in the muslin square, tie it up securely and pop it in the pot of water
  9. Thinly slice the peel. This will take a bit of time to do properly, so relax and enjoy, it’s a lovely mindless task, almost meditative once you get going
  10. Add all the sliced peel to the pot. Pop your sugar thermometer into the pot if you have one, if not, don’t worry – you’ll still get good marmalade
  11. Bring the mixture up to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes
  12. Add the ginger syrup and the slivers of preserved ginger
  13. Cook on a fairly quick boil for a further 30 minutes, or until the marmalade has reached setting point. I didn’t boil it hard enough so it took FAR longer than 30 mins. If you’re using the thermometer, just keep boiling till it reaches ‘jam’ but do the cold plate test to make sure it will set.
  14. The cold plate test – take the plate out of the freezer and drip a blob of marmalade onto it. Leave a few seconds till it’s properly cold and then push it with your finger. If it’s runny, keep boiling. If it sort of wrinkles at the edges, it’s ready. Voila!
  15. Remove and discard the bag of oranginess.
  16. Ladle into sterilised jars, seal and label

A note about sterilising jars. You must do this! If you don’t your marmalade could go nasty really quite soon after putting it in the jars. And what would be the point of that?

You can sterilise them by running them through the dishwasher and using them immediately (without putting your icky fingers inside the jar before filling them). Or wash them in hot soapy water, and place them upright in a baking tray, and pop them in the oven for 20 minutes or so. Again, fill them with marmalade before you fill them with ickiness from your fingers.

And another note for you – about soft peel. That’s what marmalade is all about, yeah? How would I know, I never liked the stuff! Anyway, if you want your peel super soft and lovely, then you have to go through the process of cooking the oranges in water BEFORE you add the sugar. If you add the sugar before the skin has softened it will just go tough and your marmalade won’t be so unctuous and delicious.

So, I guess you want to know if it worked, if I now like marmalade? Well what do you think? Would I be able to resist this unctuous bittersweetness in a jar? It’s DELICIOUS! I still don’t know if I like ALL marmalade, but I certainly love this one.

And you do want the recipe for marmalade and apricot muffins don’t you?

Next time, next time. I’m too busy on my Easy Peasy Cheese Scones right now. And must make some lemon curd, to use up some of those eggs (and those lemons looking a wee bit sad in the fruit bowl).

Tollhouse cookies

30 Jan

Tollhouse Cookies are a memory from my childhood. I had a recipe written in my childish hand-writing, which if memory serves me correctly had the list of ingredients but no instructions. I made them so often I didn’t need instructions and so I knew that they were the most delicious of cookies.

I’m pretty sure the recipe came from my Aunt Joyce, the Queen of Baking in my world. And I’m also fairly certain that the recipe is in my mother’s recipe book. So, if I really wanted I could no doubt get back the original, and make them exactly as they were in those eternally sunny summers back in the mid 70s. But I also recall that they had half lard, half butter (or even marg) … and I know that using half lard can make pastry beautifully short, but I don’t think I want to use lard in my biscuits any more. So, if I’m going to play about with the recipe anyway, I may as well just find a new one, and adapt from there.

So, this weekend I did some internet research, so you don’t have to.  Although if you really want to find out more, you can do worse than starting out here on my friend wikipedia.

Now, a bit of background for you. One of the reasons I feel quite so strongly about Tollhouse Cookies might be because my father’s office was in the original Tollhouse in our town.  I know it’s purely circumstantial, and literally hundreds of towns must have their own historical tollhouses, so clearly my recipe was no more authentic than any other. But, my recipe had choc chips AND nuts and I am not about to mess with my memory by either making a Tollhouse Cookie with no nuts, or re-naming the biscuits of my childhood Choc Chip n Nut Cookies.

But anyway, the research revealed a few things about 21st century tollhouse cookies: the butter should be melted and the sugar needs to be a mixture of brown/muscovado and caster – this will give a more caramelly taste and chewy texture, which works for me. And the cookies should be left on their baking sheet once nearly cooked so they complete the cooking out of the oven. No-one seemed to want to put nuts in them though, so feel free to omit them if you want. But then please just call them choc chip cookies.

Tollhouse cookies

Preheat oven to 170C or Gas Mark 3. Grease at least two baking sheets. Or I guess you could line them with baking parchment instead.

170g unsalted butter

250g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarb of soda

1/2 tsp salt

200g dark brown or muscovado sugar

100g light brown sugar (or caster)

1 TBSp vanilla extract

1 egg + 1 egg yolk

200g dark chocolate, chopped into wee chips

125g mixed nuts, chopped into wee chips. I’ve not tried it, but you could probably use salted nuts if you’re a fan of the sugar-salt-choc thing.

  1. Melt the butter in a big bowl (this is the bowl that the whole mixture is going to end up in so make it big enough). I use a microwave to melt the butter, but of course you could melt it in a pan and then tip it into the bowl.
  2. Sift the flour, bicarb and salt together in a different bowl – this is really just to mix it together, as most flour these days doesn’t need sifting – but it’s an old habit with me, so I like to sift it all
  3. Add the sugars to the melted butter and beat with an electric beater (or a wooden spoon if you want to work off those bingo wings) until you have a light fluffy mixture
  4. Now add the vanilla essence and the eggs and beat some more
  5. Mix in the flour and stuff with a wooden spoon, then mix through the nuts and chocolate chips
  6. Depending how warm your kitchen is, you’ll either have a soft-ish batter, or a much stiffer dough… my kitchen was baltic this weekend, so the butter cooled down quickly and I had quite a stiff dough
  7. Now, how big do you want your cookies? I use about a soup-spoonful of mixture in a big lump, and they spread out to around 3-4 inches diameter.  But you might want to make ENORMOUS cookies like those ones you get at train stations… you’d probably need about 4 TBsps of cookie mixture for that size.
  8. Remember to leave gaps between each dollop of mixture – the larger the dollop the bigger the gap required. For the enormous ones you’ll need at least 3″ I’d say.
  9. Bake for about 16 minutes, but this will depend on which shelf they are on in your oven, how hot the oven actually is and what size you’ve made your cookies. Ideally you need to take them out when they are golden around the edges, but not toasted in the middle. Leave them on the baking tray to cool down, they will continue to cook. Then remove them to a cooling tray. This will give you a slightly chewy cookie, if you prefer them crisper, just keep them in the oven a wee bit longer, till they are uniformly coloured.
  10. Once they are cool, transfer them into two separate airtight containers. Keep one lot at home, and take the rest to your colleagues, or to someone you love (not mutually exclusive).

There!  How easy was that? And according to my colleagues, they’re a winner.
But before you run off to bake cookies, a top tip for you. Some of you will know this already, but if you’re not a baker you might not. Don’t keep opening the oven door to check your cookies, and when you do open the door, be sure to shut it gently afterwards, as slamming it shut will blow in cold air, and mess with the cooking. This is even more important when you’re baking cakes, or anything you expect to rise. If you slam the door, it’s like slamming a big weight onto your delicate cake.
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