Nagapattinam Nei Mittai Kadai (Madurai) Kizhangu Pottlam – Spicy Potato Podimas.

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Madurai – Arguably has the most glorious history of all the Indian cities and conjures up images of so many many things for me  – the Meenakshi Amman Temple, crowded roads, my Alma Mater, the station, KPN Bus Stand where I have spent many hours patiently waiting to board the bus which would take me back to Madras, mountains of freshly strung jasmine flowers and hawkers selling them, Dindigul Road where we used to go to buy books etc, and so many many things, As far as being a foodie goes, Madurai was literally food heaven -My favourites here are too many but still I am going to try to put them down as each name brings forth memories that have been buried in the back shelves of my brain! British Bakery, Hotel Guru Prasad, New College House, Hotel Supreme, the Idli Kadai close to my hostel which would dish out steaming hot Idlis in record time accompanied with mint and tomato chutneys, Raja Barley when I would get my favourite macroons and “Kuchi Muttai”, the mess hotel near the station, the bakery near my hostel, and finally the Nagapattinam Nei Mittai Kadai close to the temple.

This store is probably more than 60 years old but have maintained their quality and their demand. Their all time favourites are their Wheat Halwa which is served in dried lotus leaves piping hot, and the “Kizhangu Pottlam”. Literally translated to parcelled potatoes, these are deliriously spicy potato preparation thats only available for an hour in the mornings. People apparently bought them as a substitute when they are unable to cook the vegetable side at home. They simply buy a packet and almost used to function like a packet of chips would do in the present day. My mother used to have it when she was a little girl and her dad bought it for her. I had heard so much about this preparation and on my recent trip to India, I actually got a chance to try it. It was incredibly spicy yet delicious. I did recreate it at home but had to downgrade the spice levels on account of the kids :(

INGREDIENTS:

1 Big Onion sliced long and thin.

4-5 Potatoes Boiled with salt.

1/4 Tsp Turmeric Powder.

2 Tsp Red Chilli Powder.

2 Tsp Besan/ Kadalai Maavu/ Gram Flour.

Salt to taste if needed.

Oil as needed.

Seasoning:

1 Tsp Mustard.

1 tsp Broken Urad Dhal.

2 Red Chillies broken in to half.

10 Curry Leaves torn.

3 Tsp Fennel Seeds.

PREPARATION:

  • Mash the potatoes after removing the skin from it and patting it dry. Set aside.
  • Slice the onions in to thin yet not too long pieces.
  • In a kadai, add 2-3 tbsp oil and allow it to heat up. This recipe has the gramfour added at the end, which might makw it dry so its imperative that we dont scrimp on the oil thats used for seasoning.
  • Add the mustard seeds and when they splutter, add the broken urad dhal, fennel seeds and curry leaves. Instantly the aroma of fried fennel seeds wafts in the air and thats the time you tip the diced onions in.
  • Saute until slightly brown and then add the roughly mashed potatoes.
  • Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder and adjust salt if needed.
  • Mix them up roughly and when they come together, add the 2 Tsp of besan to make them bind with each other.
  • Garnish with another spoon of oil and a chopped cilantro.
  • Serve hot with Vengaya Sambar, Tomato Rasam and Curd Rice.

Saravana Bhavan “Rangoli” Gujrati Khichdi.

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You just cant go wrong with relatively simple comfort food. The most comforting foods are the most hearties and the most easiest. The very first time we went to the Rangoli Restaurant at T.Nagar was something I could never forget. I got to sample comforting, wholesome gujrathi and rajasthani rustic cuisine here and I was completely smitten. I remember starting the course with the huge thali plate with a multitude of minuscule steel cups. They had around 2 dry vegetables, 2 gravies and one daal, curd, pickle, shrikhand, dessert and sample starters. They also serve unlimited hot and super soft rotis with refills of the accompaniments too. Then they served hot khichdi with a dollop of desi ghee. It was almost redolent with the aroma of freshly melted ghee on a bed of hot mushy khichdi which almost reminded me of the “paruppu sadam” we eat as kids. Now I was hooked!  It was the simplest of all the dishes that were served but I could never really recreate it at home for quite some time. I guess it was the basmati rice thats cooked to a mushy consistency and I figured it out completely by accident. It`s really my goto dish on days that are crazy, rainy and otherwise dull.

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Pic Courtesy:Google.

INGREDIENTS:

1 Cup Basmati Rice.

1/4 Cup heaped Moong Dal.

Handful of Toor Dhal.

5-6 Cups Water.

1 Tsp Ghee to add to rice.

Salt to taste.

Seasoning:

2 Tbsp Ghee.

2 Tsp Jeera.

1 Cinnamon Stick.

10 Curry Leaves torn.

PREPARATION:

  •  Wash the rice and dal until its clean and add the 6 cups water.
  • Transfer to a pressure cooker vessel and add a Tsp of ghee.
  • Pressure cook as you would for regular rice/dal. I normally wait for one whistle and then bring down the flame to sim and THEN cook for ten minutes. Switch off.
  • When ready to release pressure, open the lid and with a masher, mash the rice well until mushy.
  • Season with the ingredients specified and pour over the khichdi.
  • Serve piping HOT with pickle or Paneer Butter Masala. 
  • This khichdi is cooked with moong daal which rapidly thickens with time. Always better to open the cooker and season and immediately serve when ready.

Easy Spongy Black Forest Cake. ( Layers of chocolate cake, lined with whipped cream and maraschino cherries)

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I love Black Forest Cake. And I love Buttercream! Period! Contrasting as it may sound,I love the light whipped cream slathered over the Black Forest Cake. I guess its got to do with the fact that its light and airy, not dripping with sweet, and the tartness from the maraschino cherries all bundled in to one big cake. My earliest memories of Black Forest Cake was the one at Saravanaas in T.Nagar,Chennai. On rare ocassions, amma would buy us a few pieces of the Black Forest Cake as a weekend treat along with the famous Bangalore Iyengar Bakery Dilpasands. I was in chocolate heaven. I am not a big fan of chocolate, or cake, or whipped cream but somehow I loved this arrangement. Years later, when I found it at the Hot Breads location here, I was overjoyed. I had been wanting to try it at home for a long time now and last year I made it for my kids birthday. The only reason I could never post it until now was that there would never be time for me to click any pictures!!! Its a great option to make it with kids and they love it.

INGREDIENTS FOR CHOCOLATE CAKE:

1 1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour.

1 1/4 Cup Sugar.

1 Tsp Baking Soda

1 Tsp Baking Powder.

3/4 Cup Cocoa Powder.

3 Large Eggs.

3/4 Cup Butter/ Oil.

1 Cup Milk.

1/2 Tsp Instant Coffee Powder.

1 Tsp Vanilla Essence.

INGREDIENTS FOR CHERRY SOLUTION:

1/4 Cup Cherry Solution. ( Maraschino Cherries are sold soaked in this solution).

1/4 Cup Water.

3 Tsp Sugar.

INGREDIENTS FOR ICING & GARNISH:

Cool Whip readymade from the store (or)

1 Pint Heavy Whipping Cream.

1/2 Cup Icicing Sugar.

1/2 Tsp Vanilla Essence.

Handful of Maraschino Cherries.

Handful of Glazed Red Cherries.

Chocolate Shavings.

PREPARATION:

  • Measure out the required amount of all purpose flour and cocoa powder and add the baking soda and baking powder. Now seive them all together in to another dry bowl.
  • Preheat the oven to 375F and grease the sides of a 9 inch spring form pan and line the base with parchment paper.
  • Lightly warm 1 cup of milk and then add about 1/2 Tsp Instant Coffee Powder to it. Stir and allow to cool.
  • Measure out the sugar and add to a bowl and add 3 eggs at room temperature to this  . Beat on low speed for a couple minutes.
  • Add the melted butter/ oil, vanilla essence and the cooled milk.
  • Beat well to incorporate.
  • Slowly add the dry ingredients and with a paddle attachment mix to a smooth batter. You could also use a hand held whisk for the same.
  • Transfer to the cake pan and bake for about 35-40 minutes until a toothpick that’s inserted comes out clean and the cake is springy.
  • Allow to cool.

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Cherry Solution:

  • Pour out the required quantity of the solution in which the maraschino cherries are soaking in. Add water and 3 Tsp sugar and allow to steep for some time in low heat. Switch off and allow to cool.

Whipped Cream:

  • Place the metal bowl in the freezer for about 15 minutes and then transfer the heavy whipping cream to it. Add sugar and vanilla essence and keep beating until the cream reached stiff peaks.  Optionally you can use store bought whipped cream like Cool Whip.

ASSEMBLING THE BLACK FOREST CAKE:

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  • When the cake is cooled enough, place it on a firm base and slice it horizontally in to 3 layers.
  • Transfer the lower most layer on to a cake server and sprinkle the cooled sugared cherry syrup with a spoon or a brush.
  • Slather the layer with whipped cream and garnish with chopped maraschino cherries.
  • Place the second layer over the first and again drizzle with sugar solution, whipped cream adn more maraschino cherries.
  • Spray the inner side of the topmost layer also with the sugar syrup and now place the topmost layer.
  • Cover the cake on all sides with whipped cream.
  • Garnish with chocolate shavings and pipe rosettes on the top and garnish with red glazed cherries.
  • Black Forest Cake is now ready to be served.

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Jangiri/ Emarti – Sweets for Diwali, Holi and pretty much any occasion!

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As a kid I was never too fond of sweets and would shy away from anything that was too sweet and dripping with syrup. The only exception was of course Gulab Jamun, but even that I could never have more than two at any one point.  My all time favourite sweet was always the soft Badushah with flaky centres and sugary yet crunchy exteriors.  Later when we moved to Bangalore, I had the opportunity to visit Adyar Anandha Bhavan and saw the cute mini jangiris and I instantly fell for their size and color! Strangely from that day I was hooked. I enjoy having one of those mini bite sized soft yet sweet jangiris for my instant sugar fix compulsions which would happen right after a heavy sunday lunch! Strangely my kids are like me – one of them loves Jangiri and the other loves Badushah, so I make them both every year for Deepavali.  Jangiri/ Emarti is also a famous delicacy prepared in the Northern parts of India for Holi – the festival of colours.

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 Cup Whole Urad Dhal.

A pinch of Salt.

Orange Food Colour as needed dissolved in 1 Tbsp of Water.

1 Tsp CornFlour.

1 Tsp Rice Flour.

SUGAR SYRUP:

2 1/2 Cups Sugar.

1 Cup Water.

1 Tsp Rose Essence.

1 Tsp Cardamom Powder.

1 Tsp Lemon Juice.

PREPARATION:

  • Soak the Urad Dhal for about a minimum of 3-4 hours at least with sufficient water.
  • Grind in wet grinder/ food processor with as little water as possible.
  • The batter should be light and airy as it would be when you make Dahi Vada.
  • If you feel its a little too runny, add rice flour and corn flour. Mix well as if you are beating the batter so its stays light and airy.
  • Add the orange food color to the urad dhal and  and mix gently.
  • Start making the sugar syrup to single string consistency.
  • Measure out the sugar, add water and keep on stove in medium flame.
  • Keep stirring and the solution will start to boil.
  • In a few minutes, the syrup would have reached single string consistency – When you pick up the ladle and allow the syrup  to drip, it will form a small stretchy thin string.
  • The other option to ascertain single string consistency is to dab a small drop of sugar solution on to your index finger and try to make a string with the thumb. If its stretches in to a thin line, you are done.
  • Switch off flame and add cardamom powder and rose essence and a few more drops of food colour.
  • Add a few drops of lemon juice to the syrup.
  • Set aside.
  • If you have a piping bag for using on cakes, use the medium nozzle and it should work fine.
  • Else take a large ziploc bag and open out completely.
  • Heat up an iron nail and make a hole in the middle of the ziploc bag. We use a heated nail as it would sear the sides of the ziploc and seal it from tearing on pressure.
  • Scoop the batter on to the ziploc and slowly pipe jangiris on to the oil.
  • The oil shd be on medium flame on a constant temperature.
  • Use a skewer and cook on both sides.
  • Remove when crisp and dunk in sugar syrup.
  • Wait for about 5 minutes at least before removing from syrup.
  • Continue and complete until the batter is done.
  • Gorgeous Jangiri/ Emarti is ready to be served.

HINTS:

  1. One of the most important aspect here it to make sure that the urad batter is light and fluffy. This makes the Jangiri/ Emarti absorb more syrup and gives you the right consistency.
  2. Sugar Solution Single String is also extremely  important so if required try it once before on your stove to note the settings. You can make so many different sweets with this consistency – Badushah, Kaju Katli, Boondhi Laddoo, Madatha Khaaja etc.IMG_4976

Aloo Kathi Roll / Tibbs Frankie -Bombay Street Food.

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“Brilliant!!!” was the first word that came to my mind when I saw the Tibbs Frankies Counter right outside the Globus Store in Chennai. It was everything packaged in to one tiny roll of goodness. When I bit in to the hot veggie frankie, I attained instant nirvana. It was a combination of sorts – spicy, tart, chunky and crunchy. It was a match made in heaven. Since that day it has been something that makes me go weak in the knees. I confess to even choosing Globus over some of the other stores, simply with the knowledge that we would have the frankie. When we moved to the US, it was one of those things that I missed the most…well, apart from Woodlands Pongal, Sangeetha`s Pineapple Kesari, Madras Bhel Puri House Bhel Puri, Hot Chips Samosa Chat, Saravana Bhavan Parotta Kurma, and Mainland China`s Dumplings to say the least! I had to make my own version and the first step was getting the Frankie Masala. On my last trip to India, I got the Kapol`s Frankie Masala and I must say its a keeper.  My version is inspired by many on the internet and of course my own spin to it. Hope you enjoy it!

INGREDIENTS:

1 Medium Onion.

1 Tsp Frankie Masala.

1 Cup Wheat Flour.

1 Cup Unbleached Organic All Purpose Flour.

Salt to taste.

For the Stuffing:

2 Medium Sized Potatoes boiled with salt and mashed.

1 Tsp Cumin Powder.

1 Green Chilli Chopped.

1/2 Tsp Red Chilli Powder.

1/2 Tsp Chat Masala.

1/2 Tsp Garam Masala Powder.

Salt if needed.

1/2 Cup Bread Crumbs.

1/2 Tsp Sugar. (Optional).

For The Green Chutney:

2 Tbsp Thick Curd.

1 Green Chilli.

2 Tbsp Roughly Chopped Ginger.

1/2  Cup Packed Cilantro Leaves.

3-4 Mint Leaves. (Optional).

A few drops of lemon juice or 1/2 Tsp Kala Namak.

PREPARATION:

  • Prepare the outer dough just like you would for rotis. Add the all purpose flour,  maida and salt and using just enough water roll in to a pliable dough. Smear a thin layer of oil and cover tightly until use. You can also use whole wheat flour completely if needed.
  • Chop a medium onion in to thin long slices. Squeeze half a lemon on the onions and top with 1/2 Tsp Chat Masala. Set aside.
  • In a kadai add a tsp of oil and add the green chillies and the mashed potatoes. Follow up with all the dry spices – Cumin Powder, Red Chilli Powder, Chat Masala and Garam Masala Powder and give it a quick saute.
  • Remove from the kadai, trasfer to a bowl and add more salt if needed after tasting. Add about 1/2 cup  of bread crumbs and gently mix.
  • For bread crumbs just add one loaf of bread to the mixie jar and quickly pulse.
  • At this point the stuffing should have a thick cutlet dough like consistency. Roll in to cylindrical pieces and shallow fry until browned on all sides.
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  • Puree the curd, cilantro, green chilli, mint leaves and ginger to a smooth consistency. If you don’t want to use curd, just add a few drops of water.  Season with a pinch of kala namak (black salt) or lemon juice. Transfer to a bowl.
  • Kathi Rolls are pretty much assembled just before serving them so they dont get soggy.
  • Arrange all the ingredients required – Stuffing, warm rotis. green chutney, chopped cilantro, seasoned onions and optionally chat masala powder or frankie masala powder.
  • Lay out the roti and place two of the potatoe rolls on one side.

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  • Top with green chutney, chopped cilantro, and onions and sprinkle chat masala.
  • Gingerly roll tightly and pack one end in to a small sheet of aluminum foil.
  • Serve fresh!

 HINTS:

  1. You can sunstitute half the boiled potatoes and replace it with paneer instead.
  2. You can marinate the panneer / aloo in achari masala and then sear it to make Achari Panneer Kathi Rolls.
  3. Leftover stuffing can be easily reused the next day for kids lunchboxes in the form of sandwiches.

 

 

 

 

Ginger Rasam – No Need of Rasam Powder !!!

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There are really only two ways people look at Ginger – They either love it or they hate it! In my opinion Ginger is pretty under rated. We use it in appetisers, main courses, salads, dressings, desserts, cookies and even bread! It supposedly helps with digestion, is an effective cure for coughs and colds, boosts immunity and helps combat cancer. In the long list of medicinal properties I love the fact that its been around for thousands of years. In fact I love it in my tea for the zing that it provides. I have been contemplating making my own ginger cough drops, but that`s a project for another day. Ginger Rasam needs no prep work and no Rasam Powder. It`s one of those things you can prep,cook and finish in under 30 minutes or less. Use it as a rasam or simply drink it as soup. Its hearty, warming and extremely good for you.

One word of caution – I see many varieties of ginger in the markets. The smaller thinner varieties are in my opinion more potent so slightly reduce the quantity thats recommended. I use the slightly fatter bigger variety thats available in the Indian stores in the US.

INGREDIENTS:

1 Ripe Tomato.

2 Cups Diluted Tamarind Water.

1/4 Cup Cooked Toor Dhal.

1 Inch Ginger Crushed roughly.

1 Tsp Crushed Pepper.

1/4 Tsp Turmeric.

1 Tbsp Jaggery or 2 Tsp Sugar.

Salt to taste.

Cilantro to garnish.

Temper:

2 Tsp Ghee.

1 Tsp Mustard Seeds.

1 Tsp Jeera.

1 Green Chilli sliced long.

1 Tbsp Grated Ginger.

Handful of curry leaves.

Pinch of Hing.

PREPARATION:

  • Chop the tomatoes fine. Grate the ginger as needed. Crush the 1 inch piece in your mortar.
  • Dilute the 1/4 Cup cooked toor dhal with enough water and bring it to about 1 cup.
  • In a heavy bottomed vessel heat the ghee and slowly add the ingredients for tempering – Mustard Seeds, Cumin seeds, slit chilli, grated ginger, hing and the curry leaves .
  • When they splutter add the chopped tomatoes and allow to saute until soft.
  • In a few minutes add the diluted 2 cups of tamarind water and then the turmeric powder, salt, crushed ginger, and the crushed black pepper.
  • This broth has to boil and slightly reduce until all the raw smell is gone.
  • When done, add the  1 cup of diluted cooked toor dhal water and mix.
  • When it setttles down add about 1 tbsp jaggery or 1 1/2 tsp of sugar as needed.
  • Boil the rasam on medium flame so it slowly starts frothing and just begins to boil.
  • Switch off the flame and garnish with chopped cilantro.
  • Keep the vessel tightly closed until its time to serve.
  • Delicious Ginger Rasam can be mixed with rice or simply drink it like soup!!

HINTS:

  1. Some peoople do not prefer to taste the grated ginger pieces. In such cases just mash up the ginger in to rough chunks.
  2. It`s a great option as a hot warming soup.
  3. Moderate the amount of jaggery/ sugar so as to give the rasam a hint of sweetness over the sharpness of the ginger and the pepper.

 

 

Madatha Khaaja

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Madatha Khaja is  a very new delicacy to me, comparitively as I grew up in Madras all my life. My encounters with any sweets began and ended at home. Madurai amma always made Boondhi laddoo every Deepavali along with Badam Halwa and sometimes rarely Carrot Halwa.  Sometimes a guest who comes home would get us Badushah or Jangiri or  Krishna Sweets Mysurpa and we would all relish it. When Sri Krishna sweets opened up their first branch in Chennai , at T.Nagar near my home, I was super excited. I remember we went there and they offered Badam Milk to all their customers  for at least a week! It was a totally new concept – to allow sampling! You could point to any sweet you wanted, and they would oblige with a small sample. Imagine my joy! I tasted each and every one of them and of course fell in love with each of their unique tastes. I specially remember being totally amazed with their Mysurpa and its instant rich creamy melt in the mouth taste. Their Badam Halwa is also unique in its flavor and color, tainted with the rich aroma of saffron and slathered with generous portions of clarified butter!

Moving to the US after marriage, allowed me to try out unique dishes from other cultures from my own diverse country. I had friends from Andhra Pradhesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Kerala etc and along with that came insights in to their own tastes and delicacies. My good friend L once made Khaja during Deepavali and I fell for its flavour and its flaky layers soaked in sugar syrup! I had to get more of them I knew. Around the same time I saw that many sweet stores in Chennai also started stocking Khaja. It was amazing! But I knew that I wanted to make my own some day! This version was taught to me by a good friend and I was literally sold. It was flaky, sweet, bite sized and looked very cute! Try it and I am sure  you`ll love it!

INGREDIENTS:

1 Cup Maida/ APF

1 Tsp Rice Flour.

1 Tsp Besan.

2 Tsp Ghee/ Oil/ Vanaspati.

A pinch of salt.

6 Tsp Ghee.

Sugar Syrup:

1 Cup Sugar.

1 Tsp Cardamom Powder.

A few drops rose essence.

1/2 Cup Water.

PREPARATION:

  • A wide bowl works best for making this dough – Add all purpose flour, the 6 tsp ghee, a pinch of salt and using enough water, mix into a smooth dough. This dough must rest and stay moist, so cover with a moist kitchen towel/ napkin. Set aside.
  • Prepare the sugar syrup to single string consistency – Add the 1 cup sugar and half the water (1/2 Cup) to a vessel and keep stirring on medium flame. In about 8-10 minutes, you should see that the sugar solution turns slightly syrupy and when you try to drip the solution from the ladle, it forms a string. This is the right consistency. Its imperative that you reach the right consistency for the solution to get syrupy enough to coat the khaja and render it sweet and crystallise over the sweet. This is exactly the same that you would do for the Badushah or Shakkarpara.
  • Flavour the syrup with rose essence and cardamom powder as needed.
  • Combine 1 Tsp Rice Flour, 1 Tsp Besan and 2 Tsp Ghee to form a paste.

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  • Divide the rested dough in to three equal parts and roll them all out in to thin rotis.
  • Use the rice flour besan paste to coat the maida roti on the bottom. Spread it evenly with your finger or a silicon brush.
  • Place the second roti over the first and press uniformly to remove any air bubbles trapped.
  • Coat the second roti also with the rice flour ghee paste.
  • Place the third roti over the second and firmly press to allow uniform surface.
  • Roll the 3 latered roti tightly to form a long log.

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  • Slice about 1 inch pieces from the log and using the rolling pin, press each roll length wise or breadth wise as needed.
  • Fry on medium low heat until the khajas turn golden brown.
  • Dunk the fried khajas in the sugar solution for a couple minutes and set on a clean sheet of parchment paper/ wire rack to cool.

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  • When the khajas cool up, the sugar coating on the top dries up to give it a beautiful sheen!
  • Enjoy Madatha Khajas for Sankranti.

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