Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Jhinge Aloo Posto (Ridge gourd and Potato in Poppy seed Paste) - Guest Post for Sharanya

When Sharanya asked me to do a guest post for her blog I was too excited reason being this was going to be my first guest post for any one. Writing for my own blog is one thing and writing for someone else is a totally different ball game together, there is a lot of responsibility attached to it. As the initial excitement subdued, I started to become jittery. Now the biggest job was to zero in on a recipe that would be good enough for a guest post. I had a lot of dishes in mind and was finding it difficult to streamline my thoughts.

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of food is Bengali cuisine...of course it’s the cuisine which is most dear to my heart because I grew up with it. The Bengali's love for food is legendary. The variety of fish and vegetables are so diverse that anything can be combined with everything and a new dish can be created. Bengalis make ambrosial dishes out of the oftentimes rejected peels, stalks and leaves of vegetables.  Ghonto, chorchori, chechki, labra, paturi, bhapa, jhal, jhol, kosha, bhate, chhyanchra, dalna, dolma,kalia, pora, shukto are some of the predominant cooking styles from this cuisine. Every dish gets its unique signature flavor and taste depending on the cooking method.


The eating method is as elaborate as the cooking method. Quoting Wiki "The Bengalis are very particular about the way and the order in which the food should be served. Each dish is to be eaten separately with a little rice so that the individual flavors can be enjoyed. The first item served may be a little ghee which is poured over a small portion of rice and eaten with a pinch of salt. Then come the bitter preparation, shukto, followed by lentils or dals, together with roasted or fried vegetables (bhaja or bharta). Next come the vegetable dishes, the lightly spiced vegetables, chenchki, chokka, followed by the most heavily spiced dalna, ghonto and those cooked with fish. Finally the chicken or mutton, if this being served at all. Chaatni comes to clear the palate together with crisp savory wafers, papor. Dessert is usually sweet yogurt (mishti doi). The meal is finally concluded with the handing out of betel leaf (paan), which is considered to be an aid to digestion and an astringent."

By now you would have a fair enough idea about how religious the Bengalis are about their food. Today I would like to write about a very humble and comforting recipe from Bengal.


I have been food blogging for over a year now. I had a G+ page which I never tried to explore. I used to remain within the frontiers of my blog until recently when one fine day I decided to understand the enigmatic G+. As I started browsing I became aware of "communities" and started adding them. The more time I started spending I became aware of the huge treasure trove of recipes being posted all around the world.  One fine day I was invited by Sharanya to attend her ongoing event "Let's celebrate Halloween" that's how I gradually started interacting with her. A very sweet person whose cakes and pastries are equally sugary, delectable, mouth-watering, ravishing and I could go on and on. As much as I try to keep myself away from all this calorie filled yummies I still love to savor the delicacies with my eyes on Sharanya's blog. Her blog is very warm and inviting...it almost makes me feel like a kid in a candy shop. It's a very proud moment for me to be doing a guest post for a cordon bleu like her.



There are many restaurants claiming to serve "authentic Bengali" cuisine, but be sure the real essence of Bengali food can be only savored at a Bengalis home. Maybe as they say, hotel cooked food  lacks the warmth and love of a home cooked meal. Among all the amazing dishes that are there the one that I am going to write about is just a simpleton in front of the other more famous counterparts. But still this inconspicuous homely dish has a lot of filigrees of memory associated with it and interspersed with the quintessential flavour of Bengali cuisine – warm and near to heart.

Two things are very commonly used in this cuisine – Mustard and Poppy seed. Mustard in the form of oil, paste, powder or as a whole spice and poppy mainly as a paste.  Jinge Posto is one such dish which most of the bengalis are crazy about. The basic Posto preparation is made out of potatoes in a creamy poppy paste base. Variations include using onion, Ridge gourd, pointed gourd (potol/parwal), ladyfinger (bhindi), cauliflower(Fulkopi), yard long bean (borboti) etc along with aloo. Each version has a characteristic taste. My favourite is Jhinge Posto - soft jhinge and mushy potato in a clingy creamy poppy seed paste with a sharp flavor of Kalonji and some slitted green chillies building up the heat. Very personal and comforting.

 Check out the recipe here.


PS: I am humbled by all the kind words that Sharanya had mentioned about me in her post. Thank you Sharanya once again for giving me this opportunity to write the first guest post for you.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Sahi Tukda (Royal Toast) on Mahastami


First of all wish you a very prosperous Maha Ashtami. Just two days ago the much awaited Durga Puja started now already it's halfway over.  Today being a weekend will start our pandal hopping and eating out, rather pigging out even if I say so myself. And if we talk about food sweet is an inseparable part of any festival in India.

Who doesn’t love sweet? And Bengalis are famous for their sweet tooth. In earlier times a meal had to end with a sweet dish. My Grandpa loved  sweets. I remember whenever we visited Kolkata during the vacations there was not a single day when we had breakfast and at least two variety of sweets was not present in the side.  Dadu (grandpa) used to go to the market every morning and buy the best sweet available that day at the moyerar dokan (sweet shop).  The freshly made spongy hot Roshogollas dipped in thick sugar syrup which the moyera would pack in big earthen pots were my favorite.

Dida(Grandma) would make Chaler Payesh (Rice pudding) with a generous seasoning of Raisins. She would add Nolen Gur instead of regular sugar which enriched the taste. Chaler payesh was always more flavorful than the Sevaiyan payesh (Roasted Vermicelli pudding) because of the Gobindobhog Chal (a type of flavored rice like the Basmati).  Once we visited North Bengal during the Durga Puja and my mother got hold of some “Choshi” from the local market. Till then I had never seen or known about Choshi - little dull white colored rice flour cylinders with bulging centre and tapered ends. Ma made Choshir payesh with them and it turned out to be one of the most delectable Payesh I have ever tasted. Add Nolen Gur to it and you will be in paradise. Choshir Payesh is a very old traditional fare, which is hardly made now-a-days and I bet there are a handful of people in our generation who has had the good luck to taste it.

During the summer vacation it was Dadu’s regular practice to have Aam-Dudh-Bhaat(Mango+Milk+Rice). A portion of the rice was kept aside, at the end of the meal he used to mix sugary ripe orange mangoes and warm milk with the rice and a pinch of sugar/sondesh. The aroma of the king of fruit was too tempting but the looks of it deterred me from trying it. The elders of the house however relished it with much joy. Now when I look back it seems I should have had tried it. Since Dadu passed away we don’t have such big family get-togethers anymore where all the family members would sit together and have their meals, interspersed with the usual adda and sharing of interesting stories.

As a kid I was a real Sweet freak. I loved anything sweet and hated anything salty or spicy. Mom also liked to have sweets. The love for sweet was in the blood. Whenever Dad used to go to the market I would tag along with him to go to the Sweet shop – Bimala Sweets (I still remember the name!). To admire the array of mouthwatering sweets arranged on the glass shelves was a very exciting thing for me. I would look out if any new type of sweet was on display and ask my dad to buy it. When I was very small dad used to leave me at the shop while he fished his bajar. I would happily stay in the shop and mingle with the shop owner and his workers. Sometimes he would offer me a sweet or two just like that. I would sit on the counter and witness the mundane activities inside the sweet shop. As I grew up a bit I became a bit shy of the surroundings and would not stay back in the shop, just buy the sweets and come back. Bimala sweets was a part of my growing up years- my metamorphosis from absolutely loving sweets to just about liking them. It was the only Sweet shop within the IIT campus during those days. During Durga Puja my entire friends group would flock there and have Matka Kulfi or Chocobars while catching up.


My Ma is a very good cook, got her culinary skills from Dida. Her culinary skills enhanced meeting my ever increasing demands of making new dishes and sweets. Now when I look back I wonder how she managed to cook 3 times a day plus interesting snacks during evening, I get worn out if I have to make 3 meals in a day. So all my evenings were filled with interesting snacks or sweets. I absolutely loved the bread Malpua she used to make more than the traditional malpua, because the former was much softer and succulent in texture and taste. Though the dish was a bit sweeter, the loving traces of malai on it was absolutely  irresistible. I am drooling even now thinking about it.

At times when there was no sweet I would resort back to Bourbon biscuit. They were always there in our home as I loved them. When I was not yet inducted to tea I would most of the times wait for ma to settle down with her evening tea so I could dip it and eat. This irked ma to no extent because my constant stirring with the biscuit would make the tea cold or sometimes even too much stirring would result in breaking the biscuit which would sink into the tea. But I never gave up and finally Ma gave up. So cleverly she permitted me to have tea so that I have my own tea to stir the biscuit in. If it was not tea time and I wanted to have Bourbon biscuit, I would separate the two biscuits, lick off the chocolate cream inside and then eat the biscuit separately. There was this friend of mine who would lick off the chocolate inside and throw away the biscuit! I was of course a better behaved kid :D.

As I grew up my love for sweet dishes decreased exponentially. I began loving salty and spicy things better. As of date I only have sweets in form of cold desserts, gajar ka halwa or if it’s a very tempting looking dessert. My husband is a chocolate addict and buys Cadburys everyday on way back home. There are very rare occasions when I demand share from the chocolate bars. The other day I was flipping some recipes on the net and came across the recipe of Sahi Tukda. It’s a bread pudding soaked in hot milk and spices, a north Indian specialty which has its roots in Pakistani cuisine. It is particularly prepared during the festive month of Ramadan and on Eid Some people say it’s similar to Double ka Meetha which is a specialty from Hyderabad.

It’s easy to make but is too much calorie packed and involves quite an amount of work in the preparation. Assembling is the easiest part. For this festive season it’s the perfect reason to indulge. This one reminds me very much of the Bread Malpua that my mom used to prepare.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes 

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Serves:2


Cuisine: Indian

Ingredients:

  • Bread (White / Brown) - 4 slices
  • Full Fat Milk - 1/2 litre
  • Dry Fruits ( Pistachios, Almonds, Cashew) - 1/4 cup
  • Sugar - 1/3 cup
  • Cornflour - 1 tsp
  • Ghee - 3/4 cup
  • Rose essence - 2 drops
  • Saffron - 4-5 strands

Method:


1. Remove the edges of the bread and slice them diagonally into two triangles. You will get 8 triangles from 4 slices.

2. Chop the nuts. Heat a non-stick pan and add 3 tsp of ghee over it. Add dried fruits and toast for a couple of minutes and keep aside. 

3. In the remaining ghee fry the bread triangles till they turn uniformly golden on both sides.


4. Take milk in a thick bottomed pan and bring to a boil. Cook on medium flame and allow the milk to reduce to half its original quantity and get a Rabri like texture. Add sugar as per taste. The mixture will be sweet enough. Add saffron strands and stir. Mix cornflour with 2-3 tbsp milk and add it to the reduced milk and mix. Add the rose essence and roasted chopped nuts.  Cut off heat and let it cool down to room temperature. Chill it in the fridge till serving time.


5. In another pan take some water and sugar. Boil it till the sugar dissolves and the mixture becomes a bit thick. Turn of heat and let it cool to room temperature.

6. Soak the bread pieces in the sugar syrup as you fry for a couple of minutes only and take them out and place on a serving dish.



7. While serving, pour the chilled rose flavored thickened milk over the bread slices, garnish with some more toasted nuts, bits of silver foil, rose petals, drizzle some rose syrup and serve.


The desert tastes better when chilled.



Sending this recipe to Pari & Jiya's "Only Traditional Recipe", Priya's and Spicy Treat's "Diwali Delicacy" event, Recipe Junction's "Spotlight : Festive Treats",Guru's "Vegan Special'13", Merry Tummy's "Cook with White", Motion and Emotions' "Theme Party" event, Gayathri and Asiya's WTML event, Simply Tadka's and Swetha's foodabulous fest .
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Thursday, 10 October 2013

Countdown To Durga Puja with a cup of chilled Malai Kulfi

O aaere chute aae pujor gondho eseche
Dhang kurakur, dhang kurakur baddi bejeche
Gache shiuli futeche, Kalo bhomra juteche,
Aar palla diye akashe meghera chuteche||

Come on everyone, the  whiff of Puja is here
The dhaks have started to sound
The Shiuli’s have blossomed in the trees , Bumble bees have flocked around them
And competing with this the clouds have started sailing in the sky||




This old song by Antara Choudhury still sends shiver down my spine…it vividly reminds me of the Durga Puja time during my childhood days. A simple and picture perfect description of the onset of this Autumn celebration in Bengal…how the weather changes declaring the festival time has arrived, the sublime smell of Shiuli mingling with the dew laden morning air, Kash ful adorning the grasslands, the powder blue sky with whipped cream like clouds, the rhythmic beats of the Dhaks along with the baritone chants of the Purohit  and of course the yummilicious Pujor bhog or Khichdi with begun bhaja. For any Bengali there is nothing more important at this time of the year than welcoming Goddess Durga to Earth.

It’s time again for the 10 day festivity. Today is Sashti. This would be my second Durga Puja at Pune. It’s not the same here as it’s back home. The air misses the fragrance of the flowers and scents that we are so used to during the Durga Puja. Quoting Vir Sangvi – “You can take the craze of Diwali in Delhi, Christmas in London, Summer Carnival in Rio de Janerio, Valentine’s day in Paris and then add it to the month long madness of Olympic Games or the World Cup and cram all that into a span of 5 days and you still wouldn’t know what you are missing if you haven’t been in Kolkata during Durga Puja”

Mahalaya ticks off the countdown timer. Earlier it was waking up early for listening Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s Sanskrit recitation of the Mahishasura Mardini on radio. Later on it was replaced by mahishashur vadh drama telecasted on TV. Audio-visual of the Goddess Durga fighting the evil was more interesting than Sanskrit slokas but still the dramas also incorporated parts of Birendrakrishna’s recitation.

In Bengal at this time the excitement among people is palpable , ladies  doing the last round of Pujo shopping, teenage girls combing every store in the street to find that right pair of Oxidized earrings to go with her new Anarkali kurta, elders deciding on the  elaborate menu for ashtami and nabami, youngsters deciding the list of all the pandals to be visited – everyone is super busy gearing up for the Pujas.

In Pune you won’t find the same hype but within the Durga Puja Pandals it’s a different story all together. It’s a mini Bengal out in there. Women in heavy silk or 'taant' sarees flaunting cartload of gold and signature big 'bindis', the men in crisp kurta-pajama or dhoti-kurta and kids in colorful festive attires add to the color of the celebrations. Dhakis are brought in from Kolkata to play the Dhak. The best part of the probashi pujas is the very traditional “Ekchala Thakur” (Durga and her children in a single frame) unlike the Theme pujas happening in Kolkata now-a-days wherein sometimes it’s more like the enigmatic modern art than traditional puja. Durja Puja is also the time for eating all the goodies, indulgence at its height. Weight gain concerns are pushed to the back seats and people prefer to dig into their food. Keeping the Bengali appetite in mind puja pandals usually have arrangements for heavy snacks and eatables. Good food also attracts more crowd. So, several stalls are set up selling Cutlet, Biryani, Rolls, Moghlai parathas, Mutton-kosha, Kabiraji, Kababs, Kochuri, Fuluri and other drool worthy eatables. The usual chat stalls of bhel puri, chowmein and burgers, soft drinks are also there. In fact in one of the Pujas last year one stall was serving sojne datar Macher-jhol bhat( Fish curry with drumsticks and rice). That was the first time in my life I tasted a fish curry with drumsticks that too in a Puja Pandal. Seems like it is more of a Ghoti preparation than Bangal. So while I was super-surprised at the combination , hubby was nonchalant.

Usually the housewives during Durga Puja would not cook at home and the whole family would dine at the pandals eating Bhog or other delicacies available. During my childhood, we used to spend all morning in the IIT Puja Pandal, have our lunch then come back home for a quick nap and by the time its evening get decked up and spend the rest of the evening in Pandal as well. In the evenings there used to be many cultural programs like song and dance, the usual Dhunuchi competition, lamp lighting competition or magic shows. In Mumbai big starts were hired to perform in the evenings. In Pune its more homely, local people usually perform.

Sometimes in perspective I feel Probashi Pujas still have the old world charm and integrity left, too much pandal hopping defeats the serenity of the celebration. Here it’s like the Colony Pujas where you sit in the same Pandal for long hours and peacefully enjoy the festivity. But then to each his own. Kolkata loves the madness and now it’s a part of their celebration.

After writing so many lines about the Durga puja and the food it’s time for the recipe. There is nothing like having a comforting serving of chilled dessert after pandal hopping the whole day. And when it’s chilled Bengali dessert it should be Malai Kulfi.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes 

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Serves:2


Cuisine: Bengali

Ingredients:

  • Full Fat Milk - 1 litre
  • Milk Powder - 1/2 cup
  • Nestle Milkmaid (condensed milk) - 1/2 tin
  • Corn flour powder - 1 1/2 tbsp
  • Cardamom Powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Dry Fruits (blanched almonds, pistachios, raisins) - 1/3 cup
  • Saffron - 1/4 tsp
  • Powdered sugar as per taste 



1. In a heavy bottomed pot or pan, mix in the milk, condensed milk and milk powder and cook on low heat. Keep stirring in between to prevent the milk from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

2. Pulse the nuts in a blender, till they are coarsely ground. Add the ground nuts and raising to the milk and fold in.

3.Add the condensed milk and milk powder and mix well. Keep stirring, the milk will start to reduce. Adjust the Sugar at this point.

4.In  a glass take some of the boiled milk and dilute the cornflour in it. Now add the cornflour mix to the reduced milk.

5.Add the saffron strands

6.Cook till the milk attains a thick Rabri like consistency.  When the milk is reduced to half the original quantity and looks ivory- brown, turn off the heat.

7. Let it cool for half an hour at room temperature. A layer of thick cream will form on the surface after a while, mix that with a spoon.

8.Pour the mixture into Kulfi moulds, or shot glasses or dessert bowls and refrigerate for about 3-4 hours.


9.Top it off with a little rose syrup and honey and enjoy your chilled dessert.



Sending this recipe to Kolkata Food Bloggers event, Pari & Jiya's "Only Traditional Recipe", Priya's and Spicy Treat's "Diwali Delicacy" event,Recipe Junction's "Spotlight : Festive Treats",Guru's "Vegan Special'13", Merry Tummy's "Cook with White", Motion and Emotions' "Theme Party" event, Gayathri and Asiya's WTML event, Simply Tadka's and Swetha's foodabulous fest .




Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Feel of Goa in Monsoon - Part 3

Day 3 was going to be a rest day for us. Holidays are ideally meant for lazying around, but for us every holiday becomes more hectic than usual weekdays because we try to catch up on everything around that place. This time on my insistence we had kept this buffer day just for resting and roaming around the resort property.
Within the Resort
We woke up late. Last night had been a stormy one. We could feel the force of the stormy sea wind on our cottage doors and windows. The morning appeared a bit calm but cloudy. Even though it wasn’t high tide we could spot huge waves crashing on the rocky bank.


After having breakfast we decided to go for a stroll on the beach. The weather was pleasant and the sun mellow. The fishing village was already busy in their daily chores. The lone fishermen positioned themselves on rock edges with their fishing wheels and baits. They were using the tiny fishes as baits. It was quite interesting to watch them reel in the fishes.

Soon hubby got busy in collecting shells. We had brought a big packet for collecting the shells and our aim was to fill the packet to the fullest capacity. While he was busy with shells I waded into the water. The waves were pretty strong and hitting the rocks with high intensity. I wished I could go deeper into the water but then seeing the unpredictable nature of them decided to play nearby the rocky beach. When I had enough and was about to come out of the water, a big wave came from behind just as I had lifted my feet to take a step and the unexpected happened. I somehow managed to stay steady but one of my brand new pair of Hawaii slippers was washed away by the receding current. I saw it floating away with the wave and signaled my husband (a non swimmer) to do something. Obviously I wasn't going to let it go that easily! But he was very least bothered about it and said its as good as gone. But I was determined to retrieve it. I saw a big wave coming towards the shore and that hit the receding waves, as a result of which the slipper was coming towards the shore along with the big wave . I was delighted and ready to catch it. But alas, the wave broke down much before the shore and my poor slipper was dragged again towards the sea with the receding waves.
The Slipper Rescue Episode

I saw a fisherman standing at a distant rock and asked my husband to signal him to catch the slipper with his fishing rod. he had also noticed the bright pink thing floating away. For the next 10 minutes it was the fisherman against the waves. Finally he was able to hook the slipper and threw it in my direction. I felt extremely obliged to him for this godly act and blessed him with all my heart. If it was not early morning I bet this strange act of slipper rescue would have had attracted a good audience.

After this episode we walked towards a extended big rocky patch. Usually this place attracted most crowd every evening. But now there was none. The waves were pretty big around this place and each impact was almost flooding the rocky patch for a minute or two. As we were walking we noticed something strange resting in a small waterhole. When we came near we realized it was some sort of a fish trapped in the waterhole. In all probability it was washed ashore by a big wave. Fortunately there was enough water in the hole so that the fish was totally submerged. But the sun was so strong that in no time the water was about to vaporize. The fish had rough spikey skin and seemed like most of the body comprised of its head. We wanted to take it out of that hole and send it back to ocean before the water dried up or any fisherman caught it for lunch. I stood there to keep an eye on it while hubby started searching for something with which it could be caught.We still didn't have any idea what the strange looking fish was. He finally managed to find a torn plastic sack. Suddenly it struck it that it was a Puffer fish in deflated condition. That made us very excited. It was the very first time we saw a puffer. But that also made us a little worried that if we tried to grab it with the sack it might get tensed and inflate suddenly which might cause injury to both my hubby and the fish. So we tried to do the operation rescue in as much calm manner as possible. I tapped the puffer's head and it simply shrugged a bit and tried to swim away. Then hubby went into action. He took the sack and lightly covered the fish before grabbing it with both hands. The fish was pretty heavy he said. But thankfully he didn't struggle or inflate, mostly he was too tired after being washed down by the waves or too frightened to do anything. Hubby then took him to the waters released the grip. It immediately started to swim and dived deep into the water. We were happy that we could rescue the fish.
The Puffer Fish
The day was turning out to be more action packed than we had expected. Two adventures within 20 minutes gave us an adrenalin rush. We roamed around the rock for some more time, taking pictures. We then saw a fishing boat approaching the shore with the day's catch. We walked in their direction. The fishermen unloaded their catch. One of them drew our attention towards something else. he asked us to follow him. On one side of the boat we saw was a huge fish laid down...nearly 4 feet in length. They said they had caught it today and asked us we we will buy it. We told them we are tourist and cant buy it. He told that usually when such big fish were caught it would be sold off to the resort. But when he had called Nisha (owner) today she said there wasn't any requirement as guests were less; now he was at a loss what to do with it. He also told us the local name of the fish but I don't remember it now.

After spending some more time on the beach we walked back to our cottage. We still had some more time till lunch so decided to spend the time in the pool. There was hardly anyone in the resort so we had the pool all to ourselves.

After half an hour we went and bathed and got ready for another sojourn to the Bogmalo Beach for our lunch. We had retained the bike for the third day as well. The last lunch at Full Moon shack was equally delectable as the first day.Post lunch we visited some of the souvenir shops and I bought some pretty Goan fridge magnets and postcards.

We came back to the resort and had a nice nap and got up in the evening refreshed. The evening was spent walking on the beach again till dusk. It started raining in the evening and we had dinner in our room only.

The next day was when we left for Pune. In the morning the regular dog friend gave us a visit. I fed him leftover gajar ka halwa from last night which he relished. We had booked Volvo for the return journey which was to be boarded from the Cortalim Junction. We finished our breakfast, completed the check out formalities and bade a final goodbye to the resort and the sea before beginning our journey back. The Hotel staff dropped us at the Cortalim Junction for a hefty fee of Rs. 350. The bus was 1 hour late it's time. This is one more reason I really hate traveling in Neeta. But since train reservation were full we had no other option. The return journey was definitely a hellish experience for me. My motion sickness took over due to the infinite number of curves and bends on the roads and I had a very bad time. I even could not enjoy the heavenly beauty of mist covered Amboli ghats with its infinite waterfalls. By the time I reached Pune I could barely stand on my feet as I felt so weak due to dehydration and vomiting.

Minus the return journey everything else was really nice in this trip. Though not the real spirit of Goa what we experience we liked it all. But still before signing off I would rate the trip to Chorla ghats far far higher than the beach holiday mainly because we love nature more. I wanted to experience Goa once while staying in the western part of country but next time when we pack our bags it will be for a forest or any place rich in flora and fauna rather than sand and sea.



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