ArchiveOctober 2023


Food is my subject so everywhere I travel. I’m on the lookout for new foods, new flavours, the latest food trends, (new to me) ingredients and techniques.
Before I leave, I do lots of research and seek insider information to build a list of ‘not to be missed’ places from street stalls and cafés to high end fine dining establishments. The latter are often my least favourites.  I’m fast tiring of exotic foamy presentations and skid marks on plates, and ever more ludicrous dining experiences at extortionate guilt-inducing prices.
On a recent trip to Canada, I ate some delicious things, but one of the most memorable was something called Run over Potato at Miznon, an Israeli sandwich place on Bay Street in downtown Toronto. It came on a gold rectangular cardboard tray and looked positively unappealing. It turned out to be three or four, first steamed then roasted potatoes squished between two sheets of parchment on a smear of crème fraîche with garlic, spring onions and dill, drizzled with extra-virgin oil and sprinkled with freshly cracked pepper and flaky sea salt. Couldn’t have looked less appetising but it was still warm and super delicious.
At the Toronto International Festival of Authors in the Harbourfront Centre, I quizzed Mark Schatzker, the food writer from the Globe and Mail about Toronto food. He was adamant that I mustn’t leave Toronto without tasting butter chicken roti (check out Roti Mahal), sushi pizza and bubble tea if that’s your thing but I don’t love bubble tea.
I was on my way to Calgary to speak at the Terroir Talk Symposium but my principal reason for visiting Toronto was to catch up with my friend Bonnie Stern who owned a cooking school in Toronto for many years. We’ve shared many bonding experiences together, including surviving the rare experience of going down the chute in the emergency evacuation of an aeroplane in Narita airport in Japan in the 1990s. We haven’t seen each other for well over a decade so had lots of catching up to do. Bonnie who is a wonderful cook and a beloved teacher took me to many of her favourite haunts including Honest Weight, a super little café that serves spanking fresh fish and Soma chocolate maker who makes exquisite chocolate from ethical sources. We also visited Downsview City Farm and had a tour with Ran Goel of the collective of CSA Farms in the suburbs who grows beautiful organic produce to nourish the local community. A really inspirational project that could be replicated in any city.
Lots of delicious food including dinner at a Kiin, a much loved Vietnamese restaurant and another memorable meal at Restaurant 20 Victoria where chef/owner Chris White and his entire team were over the moon having just been awarded a Michelin Star the previous night. We were joined by Bonnie’s daughter Anna Rupert who was co-author of Bonnie’s latest book with the appealing title ‘Don’t Worry, Just Cook’ – it’s full of gems for the sort of home cooked food we all love including Chirshi, a multi-purpose pumpkin purée from the aforementioned cookbook just in time for the squash and pumpkin season.  A brilliant standby base for many good things. 

Here are some recipes to whet your appetite.


Recipe taken from Don’t Worry, Just Cook by Bonnie Stern and Anna Rupert published by Appetite, Random House

I first learned about chirshi, the delicious Tunisian and Libyan pumpkin spread, from my friend, Israeli food journalist and author Gil Hovav.  He makes it very spicy and garlicky (like it is supposed to be), but it is very versatile and can be adapted in so many ways that it will surely become a family staple, as it is in mine.  It is a perfect vegetarian/vegan appetizer and also makes a great vegetable side dish.  Serve it as is, or sprinkled with pumpkin seeds, coriander, pomegranate seeds, goat or feta cheese, or drizzled with tahini, thick yoghurt, or labneh.  I also love it sprinkled with Aleppo pepper or sweet paprika.  Serve with challah, pita, tortilla chips, or raw vegetables.  Leftovers can be made into soup (add broth or water) or pancakes (add eggs and flour). 

Makes 2 ½ – 3 cups

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp Kosher salt plus more to taste

450g butternut squash, peeled and cut into 4cm chunks

450g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 4cm chunks

1-2 garlic cloves, grated

85g pure tahini

2-3 tbsp fresh lemon juice, to taste

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1 tsp – 1 tbsp harissa or other hot sauce plus more to taste

½ tsp smoked or sweet paprika

freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190°C and line a baking tray with parchment paper.  In a small bowl, combine the olive oil with the tomato paste and salt.  Place the squash and sweet potatoes on the lined baking tray and toss well with the olive oil mixture to coat.  Roast for 30-40 minutes or until tender and lightly browned.  Let cool on the baking tray.  Transfer the vegetables to a bowl and mash with a potato masher or fork if you like it slightly chunky like I do, or purée coarsely or until smooth in a food processor.

Mix in the garlic, tahini, lemon juice, thyme, harissa and smoked paprika.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread on a platter and serve as is, or sprinkle with pumpkin seeds, coriander, pomegranate seeds or any ingredients mentioned in the introduction.

Tuna Poke

Recipe taken from Don’t Worry, Just Cook by Bonnie Stern and Anna Rupert published by Appetite, Random House

Poke, originally from Hawaii, is now popular around the world.  There are all sorts of poke with different fish (raw or cooked) and sauces.  My version is a riff on the famous ahi tuna poke dip at the Kahala Resort in Honolulu, where I first tried it.  This also makes a great main-course salad, sandwich filling, topping on a rice bowl, or filling for sushi rolls.  Chopped cooked shrimp works well in place of the tuna.

Serves 8

115g mayonnaise

1 tbsp fresh lime juice

1 tbsp soy sauce

50g coarsely chopped fresh coriander

3 tbsp coarsely chopped pickled ginger

½ tsp toasted sesame oil

350g raw sushi-grade tuna, cut into small cubes

½ ripe avocado

To Serve

Little Gem lettuce cups

Combine the mayonnaise with the lime juice and soy sauce, followed by the coriander, ginger and sesame oil.

Add the tuna and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Dice the avocado and gently stir into the poke just before serving.

Serve in lettuce cups.

Korean Marinated Flank Steak

Recipe taken from Don’t Worry, Just Cook by Bonnie Stern and Anna Rupert published by Appetite, Random House

This easy marinade is perfect for steak, Miami ribs, lamb chops and tofu steaks.  Flank steak is quite lean, but if it is grilled rare and then thinly sliced across the grain, it is very tender.  When deciding how big of a steak to cook, it’s helpful to keep in mind how much waste (bone, fat or gristle) is typical for the type of steak you are using.  Because a flank steak is boneless and has very little fat, 900g might be plenty for six people or maybe even more, depending on how much other food you are serving.  Flank steaks come in different sizes, so you may need one or two.

Serves 6-8

130g soy sauce

50g granulated sugar or light brown sugar

2 garlic cloves, grated

2.5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

900g flank steak

3 green onions (scallions), sliced on the diagonal

1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, optional

In a bowl, mix the soy sauce with the sugar, garlic, ginger and sesame oil until the sugar dissolves.  Transfer to a baking dish along with the steak.  Turn the steak a few times to coat.  Marinate for 1 hour at room temperature, or up to overnight in the refrigerator.

If you remember, remove the steak from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling (if you forget, don’t worry, it just may take a few extra minutes to cook).  Heat the barbecue on high.  Grill the steak for 4-5 minutes per side, or until an instant-read thermometer reaches 52-54°C when inserted into the thickest part.  Keep a close eye because flank steak can become tough and chewy when overcooked.

Slice thinly against the grain (it may be a bit tough if sliced too thick).  Sprinkle with green onions (scallions) and sesame seeds, if using.  This is delicious served hot or at room temperature and leftovers make for hearty salads or sandwiches.

Bonnie’s Rugelach

Recipe taken from Don’t Worry, Just Cook by Bonnie Stern and Anna Rupert published by Appetite, Random House

This is my most requested cookie, and the one that I always gave to visiting chefs and teachers who taught at my cooking school.  I gave it to Yotam Ottolenghi, and he and Helen Goh included it in their cookbook Sweet – I was a little excited to say the least.  It is also the cookie that has travelled the world.  Not because I took it around the world, but because I once took an entire suitcase full of my rugelach to Israel to give to friends, but the airline lost the suitcase.  It was returned to me 1 week later and I was informed it had travelled far and wide.  Everyone has a slightly different recipe and technique for rugelach, and there are some unique cultural variations.  During the pandemic, rugelach went the way of the babka, with all kinds of sweet and savoury fillings.  This is the recipe I have always used, and while I like to look at the variations from a creative standpoint (e.g., pizza rugelach, everything bagel, smores, blue cheese, pumpkin), from an eating standpoint, I am sticking with these.

Makes 48 cookies


225g butter, cold and cut into evenly sized chunks

240g all-purpose (plain) flour

225g full-fat brick-style cream cheese, cold, cut into evenly sized chunks


225g light brown sugar

60g finely chopped roasted pecans

1 tsp cinnamon

170g best-quality apricot jam


1 egg, beaten

110g coarse sprinkling sugar

For the pastry, cut the butter into the flour until crumbly.  This can be done in a food processor, in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a pastry blender.  Cut the cream cheese into the mixture until the dough just comes together.  Divide the dough into four balls, flatten each to approximately a 10cm round, wrap in parchment paper and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

For the filling, in a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, nuts and cinnamon.  Set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line two baking trays with parchment paper.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before rolling.  Roll each ball into a 25 – 25 1/2cm circle.  (Lightly flour your work surface if necessary).  The circles do not have to be perfect – if they aren’t as good as you would like them, do not reroll, as in my experience, it never gets better.  But you will get better at rolling the dough with practice.  Spread each circle with about 2 tablespoons of apricot jam and sprinkle with one-quarter of the brown sugar mixture.  Cut each circle into 12 wedges, as if you were cutting a pizza (or 16, if you want them smaller).  Roll up each wedge from the outside/wide edge to the middle.  Place on the lined baking tray.  The unbaked cookies can be frozen flat on the baking trays, then transferred to resealable plastic bags once frozen, or you can freeze the cookies once baked.  If baking from frozen, they may take a few minutes longer to cook.

To glaze, brush each cookie with beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until browned.  Cool for about 10 minutes on the baking tray, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  These cookies freeze well. 


Resist the temptation to overstuff, any extra jam or brown sugar will just ooze out of the rugelach when they bake and could burn.  If that happens, you can cut or trim with scissors when cool, or not worry about it.

Toronto Sushi Pizza – Crispy Sushi with Salmon, Avocado and Pickled Ginger

Ordinary cooked rice works perfectly too, though it’s not as sticky. 

This is a delicious combo.

leftover sushi rice or sticky rice

flaky sea salt

extra virgin olive oil

smoked salmon or gravlax

wedges of avocado

horseradish sauce or wasabi

pickled ginger

coriander sprigs (optional)

Line the base and sides of a small ‘lasagne’ dish with parchment paper.  Press the cooked rice into the dish so it’s about 1cm deep.  Cover and pop the block into the freezer for about 45 minutes.

Then unwrap, season with flaky sea salt.  Dust both sides with a little seasoned flour or cornflour.  Cut into fingers about 6 x 4cm.

Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a wide, heavy frying pan.  Cook until crisp and golden on all sides (4-5 minutes).  Cool a little, spread a little horseradish sauce on each, add a strip of smoked salmon or gravlax, a wedge of avocado and a little pickled ginger and maybe a sprig of coriander.  Alternatively, use raw wild salmon when available and a dash of wasabi.  Dip in soy sauce and enjoy!

Basic Sushi Rice

Easy to do, just follow the instructions.

450g sushi rice “No 1 Extra Fancy”

600ml water

Vinegar Water

50ml rice wine vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

Rinse the rice for 8-10 minutes in a colander or sieve under cold running water or until the water becomes clear.

‘Wake up’ the rice by sitting it in 600ml cold water for 30 to 45 minutes.   In the same water, bring to the boil and then cook for 10 minutes until all the water has been absorbed.  Do not stir, do not even take off the lid. Turn up the heat for 10 seconds before turning the heat off.  Remove the lid, place a tea towel over the rice, replace the lid and sit for 20 minutes.

Mix the rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt together in a bowl until dissolved.  Turn the rice out onto a big flat plate (preferably wooden).  While the rice is still hot, pour the vinegar solution over the rice and mix the rice and vinegar together in a slicing action with the aid of a wooden spoon.  Don’t stir.  You must do it quickly, preferably fanning the rice with the fan.  This is much easier if you have a helper.  Allow to cool on the plate, cover with a tea towel and use as desired.  (It will soak up the liquid as it cools.)


There is an R in the month…so, hurrah, we’re in oyster season again and will be until the end of April 2024.
I love, love, love oysters, but didn’t always. I’d never even seen an oyster until I came to Ballymaloe in the late sixties and even then, I was very reluctant to taste. Everyone else around me seemed to be super excited about these strange looking molluscs so I decided I’d better pick up the courage to try them…then the dilemma, should I chew or just swallow?
I didn’t much like the first one or even the second. The oyster aficionados urged me to keep on trying. ‘You’ve got to eat five or six before you’ll start to relish them’ and how right they were. Suddenly I loved the delicious briny flavour and the slithery texture and now I will gleefully tuck into a dozen or more when I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity.
Last year in the US, I went along to the Billion Oyster Project fundraiser ( in the Navy Boatyard in Brooklyn. This is a New York City based not for profit initiative dreamed up by Murray Fisher, Pete Malinowski and friends from Fishers Island to re-populate New York harbour with a billion oysters by 2035. I tasted over 20 different oysters out of the 40 plus from all around the American coast. Many were very good, but I can now confidently say that there’s nothing to beat the flavour of Irish oysters, only the little Olympia oysters from the west coast around Puget Sound come close and believe me I’ve tried a few oysters in my day.
All over the world, there are oyster restoration projects underway for several very good reasons. Oysters are bivalves, filter feeders that clean the water which encourages marine plant life and allows sea life to recover. They also grow in clumps, which create a barrier to protect against coastal erosion – win, win all the way.
During the past few decades, the native Irish oyster almost became extinct, archaeologists have found oyster middens in Cork Harbour that date back to Neolithic times.
For centuries, oysters were overfished, a cheap source of highly nutritious coastal food, loaded with zinc, calcium, selenium as well as Vitamin A and Vitamin B12. At one stage, labourers could not be fed oysters too frequently similar to wild salmon when it was cheap and plentiful before overfishing decimated the stocks.
Rossmore Oysters in Cork Harbour developed a methodology for breeding oysters in saltwater beds on the edge of the estuary. The stocks are now gradually recovering, so there is growing optimism that the native Irish oyster, famed the world over for its unique, briny flavour, and superb texture may be saved from virtual extinction.
Once again native Irish oysters are being featured on top restaurant menus in London, Paris, Berlin….
Recently an Oyster Opening Championship was held at Bentley’s in London. The Irish ‘natives’ got a rapturous response from both chefs’ and oyster lovers.
The champion oyster opener from Bentley’s went on to win the world championships at the famous Galway Oyster Festival in September.
The flat native Irish oysters take four years to reach maturity and for my taste are best enjoyed au nature with maybe a drop of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
The more accessible gigas oysters in their beautiful curvaceous shells, mature faster in 18 months to 2 years. They too are delicious unadorned but also take well to tangy toppings and are delicious cooked in a variety of ways.
Who remembers with nostalgia, Declan Ryan’s delicious oysters with cucumber and beurre blanc from the Arbutus Lodge menu in the 1980s. Ballymaloe House still do oysters in champagne sauce occasionally (see my Examiner Column 11th February 2023), another exquisite oyster classic.
I also loved the smoked oysters that Joe Savage and The Smokin Soul Grill team shared at the Grub Circus during the recent Altogether Now Festival at Curraghmore in County Waterford. They had super grills and barbecue gear, but one could try smoking some in a tin box over a gas jet in your own kitchen. You’ll be surprised, even astonished at how irresistible they taste.
Cooked or smoked oysters are a delicious introduction to oysters if you don’t quite relish the idea of eating them unadorned and then there’s also oyster stew and crispy deep fried oysters.  Here is the recipe for oyster stew given to me in 1986 by the lovely Marion Cunningham and several of my other favourite oyster recipes. 
But most of all seek out the native Irish oysters, you may find some in the English Market in Cork City and give thanks that they have been saved from extinction.

How to Open an Oyster

You will need an oyster knife.

It’s wise to protect your hand with a folded tea towel when opening oysters.  Wrap the tea towel round your hand, then lay the deep shell on the tea towel with the wide end pointing inwards.   Grip the oyster firmly in your protected hand while you insert the tip of the knife into the hinge, twist to lever the two shells apart; you’ll need to exert quite a lot of pressure, so it’s foolhardy not to protect your hand well.   Then, slide the blade of the knife under the top shell to detach the oyster from the shell. Discard the top shell, then loosen the oyster from the deep shell, flip over to reveal the plump side, don’t lose the precious briny juice. 

Hot Oysters with Beurre Blanc and a Fine Julienne of Cucumber

A marriage made in heaven… 

Serves 4

16 rock or Japanese Oysters – we source our oysters from Rossmore Oysters in Cork Harbour,

¼ cucumber

Beurre Blanc Sauce

3 tbsp white wine

3 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tbsp finely chopped shallots

pinch of ground white pepper

175g butter, unsalted

1 tbsp cream

salt and freshly ground white pepper

lemon juice, to taste

To Serve

rock salt or seaweed

First make the beurre blanc.

Put the first four ingredients into a stainless steel saucepan, bring to the boil and reduce to about 2 tablespoons.  Add a generous tablespoon of cream and boil again until the cream begins to thicken.  Remove the saucepan from the heat, whisk in the butter in little pieces, put the saucepan back on a low heat, if necessary, the sauce should be just warm enough to absorb the butter.  Strain out the shallots.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste.  Keep beurre blanc aside in a warm bain-marie until needed.

Peel the cucumber and cut into approximately 3cm blocks, cut into very fine julienne.  Use only the firm outside part of the cucumber, not the part with seeds which is soft. 

Scrub the oysters well.  Just before serving, put into a hot oven 250°C/Gas Mark 9 until they start to open. Using an oyster knife, remove and discard the top shell, place a little cucumber julienne on top of each oyster and coat with a spoonful of beurre blanc. 

To Serve

Place on warm serving plates sitting in a bed of rock salt or seaweed. 

Dervilla Whelan’s Native Oysters with Cucumber Water, Tomato Water or Rosé Mignonette

Dervilla O’Flynn, Head Chef at Ballymaloe House kindly shared her recipe with me.

We have access to beautiful oysters all year round in Ireland. The Native oysters are now available, we are using Rossmore Oyster Farm in Cork and Kelly’s in Galway on our menu.

Native and Gigas oysters are delicious served simply with lemon but if you want to add another element you can try one of these sauces.

Use sparingly so that you are just enhancing the oyster not masking its zingy, fresh taste

Oysters must always be firmly closed and alive before you open and eat them.

Cucumber Water

Serves 6

½ cucumber, not peeled

1 teaspoon Rosé Vinegar

¼- ½ juice of 1 lime

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Blend all the ingredients together with a blender. Strain through fine muslin for a clean bright green water and chill.

You can finely dice a little bit more cucumber and add it to the water if you want the texture of cucumber as well.

We sometimes freeze the water and scratch with a fork for a cucumber granita which is gorgeous served on an oyster too.

To Serve

Nap each opened oyster with a teaspoon of cucumber water and enjoy.  

Tomato Water

This is Rory O’Connell’s recipe for tomato water which is sublime.

500g very ripe tomatoes

7 basil leaves

½ tsp caster sugar

½ level tsp Maldon sea salt

pinch of cracked black pepper

Cut the tomatoes into coarse pieces and place in a large bowl. Tear up the basil leaves and add in with the sugar, salt and pepper. Use a handheld blender to pulse chop the ingredients to a rough and coarse purée. Do not over blend as you will end up with a cloudy water that will spoil the appearance of the dish. Place the mixture in a large square of muslin, tie securely and hang over a bowl to allow the water to drip from the mixture. This can be done overnight if time allows.

When ready to serve, taste the tomato water and adjust the seasoning accordingly.

Nap each opened oyster with a teaspoon of tomato water and enjoy.

Rosé Mignonette

I gently heat these ingredients to take the raw edge off the sauce.

Serves 6

6 tbsp good quality rosé vinegar

1 banana shallot, finely diced

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Put all three ingredients in a small saucepan.

Turn on the lowest heat and stand beside it while it gently warms up. As soon as it starts to get warm, turn it off and let it cool completely.

Keep in the fridge until needed. It will keep for a few weeks.

To Serve

Nap each opened oyster with a half teaspoon of the Rosé Mignonette and enjoy.

Oysters with Namjim and Crispy Onions

An addictive combination. We use the Gigas oysters for this dish.

Serves 6-8

4 shallots or small onions, sliced

namjim (see recipe)

extra virgin olive oil

24 Gigas oysters

fresh seaweed, if available

sprigs of fresh coriander

Peel and slice the shallots or onions thinly. Spread out on kitchen paper to dry.

Meanwhile, make the najmim as per the instructions and keep in a glass jam jar.

Heat about 2.5cm of oil in a frying pan, then fry the onions until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper.

To Serve

Lay a few sprigs of seaweed on each plate, if available.  Open the

oysters and nestle 3 or 4 on top of the seaweed.  Spoon a generous half teaspoon of namjim on top of each oyster and top with some crispy onions and a sprig of fresh coriander. Divine!


Rory O’Connell’s version of this easy Thai dressing from his cookbook Master It is great with seafood, especially crab, and is also good with grilled beef, hot or cold. We like to combine it with grilled fish and a handful of mixed greens per person. The choice of chilli is yours, but in Thailand, several very hot bird’s eye chillies would be called for, making for a very hot result. I normally use a mild chilli so as not to rule out any of my guests enjoying it. If you know your audience well and they like it hot, then a bird’s eye chilli would be the ticket.

2 garlic cloves, peeled

4 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

sea salt

1 green chilli, deseeded and chopped

2 shallots, finely chopped

3 tbsp lime juice

2 tbsp palm sugar

2 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)

Place the garlic, coriander and a pinch of sea salt in a pestle and mortar and pound until well crushed. Add the chopped chilli and continue to pound. Add the chopped shallots, lime juice, palm sugar and fish sauce and mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Smoked Oysters

Open the oysters and drain off the salty brine. Arrange on a fine wire rack. Alternatively, put the oysters into a very hot oven at 230°C/Gas Mark 8 for 4-5 minutes or until they pop open. Remove the semi-cooked oysters from the shells. Arrange on the wire rack.  Raw oysters should be cold smoked for an hour or so. Semi-cooked oysters should be ready in 35-45 minutes.

Serve on a salad or with hot buttered toast.

Oyster Stew with Hot Buttered Toast

This oyster stew recipe was given to me by one of my favourite American cooks Marion Cunningham, who serves it to friends and family on Christmas Eve around the kitchen table.

Serves 6

500ml milk

500ml cream

28 shelled oysters (400g approx. after shelling) with their liquor reserved – we source our oysters from Rossmore Oysters in Cork Harbour,

salt and freshly ground black pepper

30g butter

To Serve

lots of hot buttered toast

Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan, but don’t let it boil.  Add the oysters and their strained liquor.  Simmer just until the edges of the oysters curl a little.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.   Add the butter and serve very hot with lots of hot buttered toast.


Apples, apples everywhere, and what to do…?
I love homegrown apples, we grow many different varieties. It’s kind of odd but I scarcely eat an apple all year, except when our own apples are ripe in the orchard. It’s not a higher moral ground thing, just that I don’t seem to feel like it and somehow, I have a gnawing unease about possible chemical residues in non-organic apples.
We grow many varieties of both dessert and cooking apples, particularly heirloom varieties that are rarely if ever found in the shops. They ripen gradually over a long season from the deliciously mottled Beauty of Bath and Irish Peach, (yes, it’s an apple) that ripen in late July to early-August to varieties like Honey Crisp and Brambley’s Seedling that matures slowly.But now, just like many of our neighbours and friends we have a mega glut of delicious juicy apples. As ever, I get agitated and am tormented by guilt. I don’t want to waste a single apple, an almost impossible task!
One can of course share with your friends except they are probably in a similar predicament.
We all remember the oft repeated, ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’, there’s usually something of value in these old sayings. Well, it turns out that according to Professor Gabrielle Berg from Gras University of Technology in Austria, one of the scientists involved in a study on apples, a typical apple contains a hundred million microbes. Apparently, this enormous bacterial community which help to colonize our gut is much more balanced and diverse in organic apples which makes them tastier, healthier and better for the environment as well as our physical and mental health.
Individual fruits can be stored for months in a frost-free garage or a cold, dark larder if your fortunate enough to have such a thing. Choose perfect apples, free of bruises or blemishes. Wrap each in paper and arrange in a single layer on a rack. Make sure they don’t touch each other. Moulded paper mache packaging from the greengrocer or supermarket are perfect, you’ll get them free.
Divide the apples into cookers and eaters. Check regularly and use or discard any showing signs of deterioration. As a general rule, the later ripening varieties keep longer – up to 6 months when properly stored.
If you have the good fortune to have an old Bramley Seedling apple tree, rather than the more recent cultivars, they are by far the best for fluffy apple pies, crumbles, apple sauce and of course, baked apples. The sweeter the apple, the more likely they are to hold their shape in cooking.
Apples are naturally high in pectin which helps to set jams and jellies and preserves effortlessly. Apple jelly is a brilliant catchall recipe to add fistfuls of seasonal autumn berries. For example, elderberry, sloes or damsons and of course blackberries. We call this Forager’s Jelly, I also add the hard green fruit from the Chaenomeles japonica shrubs to make an apple and japonica jelly to partner game deliciously.
Medlars will soon be ripe and bletted, they too make a delicious jelly to enhance a roast mallard or pheasant.
Make lots of apple or crab apple jelly, windfalls are fine. Just cut out the bruised bits, they can be stored for Christmas hampers…only 11 weeks away now, how scary is that!
Apple juice is so worth making, you’ll need a centrifuge but if you have lots of apples, it’s definitely worth the investment. Freeze the fresh juice immediately in recycled litre milk containers, otherwise it will ferment. Basic stewed apple is also brilliant to have in boxes in the freezer for apple sauce, crumbles, apple snow, apple charlotte. And how about dried apple slices (see my column of 23rd October 2021), another fun thing to do and kids love them in their school lunchboxes. And then there’s cider of course but to make a really good cider, you’ll need cider apple varieties rather than a random mixture of apples.

Here are some recipes to whet your appetite…

Bramley Apple and Sweet Geranium Purée

The secret of really good apple sauce is to use a heavy-based saucepan and very little water. The apples should break down into a fluff during the cooking.  This can also be served as an apple sauce with pork or duck and freezes perfectly. 

450g Bramley Seedling cooking apples

3-4 sweet geranium leaves

2 tsp water

50g sugar, or more depending on tartness of the apples

Peel, quarter and core the apples, then cut the quarters in two and put in a small stainless steel or cast-iron saucepan. Add the sweet geranium leaves, sugar and water, cover and cook over a low heat. As soon as the apple has broken down, stir so it’s a uniform texture and taste for sweetness.

Myrtle Allen’s Bramley Apple Snow

We love this simple, traditional featherlight pudding.  It’s great with shortbread biscuits or even Lady Fingers, amazingly delicious for little effort.  Windfall apples can be used, just discard any bruised bits.  This recipe has been passed down from my mother-in-law Myrtle Allen’s family.

Serves 6

450g Arthur Turner, Lanes Prince Albert or Bramley Seedling cooking apples

approximately 50g granulated sugar

2 organic egg whites

cream, soft brown sugar and shortbread biscuits or Lady Fingers, to serve

Peel and core the apples, cut into chunks and put into a saucepan. Add the sugar and 1-2 dessertspoons of water, cover and cook over a low, gentle heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring every now and then until the apples dissolve into a fluff. Rub through a nylon sieve or liquidise. Bramley apples can be very sour at the beginning of the season, taste and add a little more sugar if it seems too tart.

Whisk the egg whites until stiffly whipped, then fold in gently. Taste, pour into a pretty glass bowl, pop into the fridge and serve well chilled with cream, soft brown sugar and shortbread biscuits or Lady Fingers.

Eve’s Pudding

This recipe brings back nostalgic memories for many of us, and it is certainly one that has stood the test of time. I remember it as an important part of the pudding repertoire of my childhood, and so will my children and grandchildren. Here you use the basic Madeira mixture for the topping and add fruit – whatever you please, depending on the season: rhubarb, pears, damsons, raspberries, gooseberries. Blackcurrants are also gorgeous, as is a mixture of blackberry and apples or rhubarb and strawberries.

Serves 4-6

700g cooking apples, Bramley’s Seedling or Grenadier

about 75-110g sugar

For the Topping

50g butter

50g sugar

1 organic egg, beaten

75g self-raising flour

1-2 tbsp milk

To Serve

homemade custard or lightly whipped cream

900ml pie dish

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Peel, core and slice the apples and put them in a heavy saucepan with 1 tablespoon of water and the sugar. Cover the pan and stew the apples gently until just soft, then tip into a buttered pie dish.

Cream the butter until soft, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the beaten egg by degrees and beat well until completely incorporated. Sieve the flour and fold into the butter and egg mixture. Add about 1 tablespoon of milk or enough to bring the mixture to a dropping consistency. Spread this mixture gently over the apple.

Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the sponge topping is firm to the touch in the centre. Sprinkle with caster sugar. Serve warm with homemade custard or lightly whipped cream.

Apple and Blackberry Traybake with Sweet Geranium Sugar

You’ll find yourself reaching for this recipe over and over again. Here I use apples and blackberries with sweet geranium, but I also love it with green gooseberries and elderflower, or plums. I enjoy arranging the blackberries and apples in neat lines, but if you are super busy just sprinkle them over the top of the sponge base.   

Serves 10-12

8–12 lemon geranium leaves (Pelargonium graveolens)

3–4 cooking apples, such as Bramley Seedling or Grenadier

150g blackberries

25g caster sugar

crème fraîche or softly whipped cream, to serve

For the Sponge Base

225g softened butter

175g caster sugar

275g self-raising flour

4 organic, free-range eggs

Sweet Geranium Sugar

2-4 sweet geranium leaves

50g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas Mark 3.

Line the base of a 33 x 23 x 5cm cake tin, or a 25.5cm sauté pan or cast-iron frying pan with parchment paper, allowing it to hang over the sides. Arrange 6-8 sweet geranium leaves over the base – these give the sponge a haunting lemony flavour.

To make the sponge base, combine the butter, sugar and flour in the bowl of a food processor. Whizz for a second or two, then add the eggs and stop as soon as the mixture comes together. Spoon the mixture over the base of the tin as evenly as possible (over the sweet geranium leaves).

Peel the apples. Cut into thin slices and arrange on top of the sponge in three lines. Arrange a line of blackberries in between each row. Sprinkle 25g of caster sugar over the top and bake for about 50 minutes.

Meanwhile make the sweet geranium sugar.

Whizz 2-4 sweet geranium leaves with the caster sugar in a food processor. Spread over a baking tray and set aside at room temperature to dry out.

Once it is fully cooked, the centre of the cake should be firm to the touch and the edges slightly shrunk from the sides of the tin. Serve in the tin, sprinkled with the sweet geranium sugar. Alternatively, leave to rest in the tin for 4-5 minutes before turning out. Serve with crème fraîche or softly whipped cream.

Apple and Ginger Jam

Try to find home-grown Bramley apples. They have quite a different flavour and texture from commercial varieties that have now been adapted to keep their shape in cooking rather than endearingly dissolving into a fluff as Bramley’s once did.

Makes 10 x 200ml jars

1.8kg Bramley Seedling or other tart cooking apples 

2 organic lemons

25g fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1.6kg granulated sugar, warmed in an oven at 80-100°C for 15 minutes

Peel the apples and remove their cores. Put the peels and cores into a stainless-steel saucepan with 425ml of water. Cook over a medium heat until soft.

Meanwhile, chop the apples and put them into a wide, stainless-steel saucepan. Add the finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice from the 2 lemons, plus the ginger and 600ml of water. Bring to the boil and cook until the apples dissolve into a purée.

As soon as the apple peels and cores are soft, strain through a nylon sieve into the other saucepan. Bring the mixture back to the boil, add the hot sugar and stir to dissolve. Boil until the jam reaches a setting point *. Pot into sterilised jars and cover while still hot. Store in a cool, dry place.

*Put a plate in the fridge to chill.  When the jam looks as though it’s almost set, take a teaspoonful and put it onto the cold plate.  Push the outer edge of the jam puddle into the centre with your index finger.  If the jam wrinkles even a little, it will set.

Apple and Cinnamon Vodka

Fill a sterilised glass jar with chopped apples, add a couple of cinnamon sticks and 200-250g sugar depending on the variety of apple.  Cover in vodka, seal, shake and allow to infuse for 4-14 days. Strain and pour into sterilised bottles, cover tightly and enjoy over ice or with tonic water.

Spice Box: Easy, Everyday Indian Meals

Readers of this column will know about my love affair for India and the enormous variety of tantalising Indian food. Consequently, I was overjoyed to be asked recently to launch Indian Chef Sunil Ghai’s first book ‘Spice Box: Easy, Everyday Indian Food’.
There’s a bit of history here, my first taste of Sunil’s food when he was cooking in Ananda in Dundrum in the early 2000’s stopped me mid-sentence. I was curious, who exactly was the chef behind these delicious flavours,  then Sunil Ghai emerged from the kitchen…
Up until then, Indian food on restaurant menus on this side of the world seemed far from authentic and rarely reflected the diversity of flavours I’d enjoyed in India.
For decades I’d travelled widely all over the sub-continent, loving the variety of food from the street stalls and dhabas to restaurant and hotel kitchens.  Most of all, I loved the home cooking when we were fortunate enough to be invited into people’s houses.
I’ve eaten Sunil’s food on many, many occasions since then and have invited him to teach at the Ballymaloe Cookery School and to participate in the Ballymaloe LitFest.
Over and over again, I encouraged Sunil to write a book to share his cooking, not just with his many devotees but with a wider audience who would love to be able to cook authentic Indian food, particularly the kind of home cooking often with a contemporary twist that Sunil and his team serve at his restaurants Pickle and Street in Dublin and Tiffin in his adopted town of Greystones.
Sunil originally learned how to cook by watching his mother lovingly prepared home cooked meals for her extended family, hungry to learn more he worked in restaurant kitchens of both the Taj and Oberai hotels in India and eventually made his way to Ireland to collaborate with another giant of authentic Indian cuisine Asheesh Dewan of Jaipur and Ananda fame.
Sunil is a master of spices, his food and culinary skills have earned him many awards over the years. In 2009, Sunil was Food and Wine’s Chef of the Year and once again in 2013, he was chosen as chef of the year by the Restaurant Association of Ireland, the first Indian Chef to have been awarded that accolade in Ireland. Meanwhile, Sunil, his wife Lena, and their team were super busy and running three restaurants.
Penguin publishers commissioned the book in 2020, Now at last, due to great measure to Kristin Jensen who chased Sunil around the busy kitchens standing between him, and the scales to capture his spontaneous cooking, she tested and retested the recipes until they were happy that readers would be able to recreate Sunil’s exact flavours in their own kitchens with ingredients, they could easily source and might even have in the kitchen cupboard.
Spice Box is the result, packed from cover to cover with recipes that you too are going to love and by the way, this is the first cookbook by an Indian chef on Indian food published in Ireland.

Here’s a taste to whet your appetite.

All recipes are from ‘Spice Box: Easy, Everyday Indian Food’ by Sunil Ghai published by Penguin

Mulligatawny Soup (Dal Shorba)

This is practically the national soup of India.  It was a big shock to me when I arrived in Ireland and didn’t see any soups on the menus at any of the Indian restaurants; even when I put soup on my own menu, it never sold well.  I think that’s a shame, as there is so much goodness in a bowl of soup.  Keep this vegetarian by leaving out the cooked shredded chicken at the end.

Prep Note 

Measure out your spices into two separate bowls: one bowl for the whole spices and one for the Madras curry powder and turmeric for the soup. 

Prepare and measure out all the remaining ingredients before you start cooking so that everything is ready to go and the spices don’t burn.

1.Cook the lentils

200g dried red lentils 

Soak the lentils in just enough water to cover them for 20 minutes.

2.Cook the whole spices 

50ml vegetable oil 

15-20 black peppercorns 

2 star anise 

1 fresh or dried red chilli, cut in half 

½ tsp fennel seeds

½ tsp cumin seeds 

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat.  Add the peppercorns, star anise, red chilli, fennel seeds and cumin seeds and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. 

3.Make the soup

100g sliced fresh pineapple 

1 small red onion, thinly sliced (70g)

1 small carrot, thinly sliced (50g)

½ green apple, cored and thinly sliced (60g)

1 fresh green chilli, halved lengthways

1 tbsp grated or finely chopped fresh ginger 

1 ½ tsp fine sea salt 

50g fresh or desiccated coconut 

2 tbsp Madras curry powder 

1 ½ tsp ground turmeric 

Add the pineapple, onion, carrot, apple, green chilli, ginger and salt and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the soaked lentils (including their soaking water) along with the coconut, curry powder and turmeric and 800ml water.

Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils, fruit and vegetables are all completely soft.

Blend everything, including the whole spices and the red and green chilies (although you can take the chilies out at this stage if you prefer), with a hand-held blender until smooth.  Stir in another 200-400ml water to thin the soup – it shouldn’t be too thick. 

4.To Finish

cooked basmati rice 

cooked shredded chicken (optional)

4-6 tbsp coconut milk 

handful of chopped fresh coriander 

1 lime, cut into wedges 

Put a little rice and/or chicken (if using) in the bottom of each bowl, then pour over the soup and add an extra spoonful of rice on top.  Garnish with a drizzle of coconut, milk and chopped fresh coriander, then squeeze over some lime juice.  Let each person stir everything together in their own bowl.

Fish Cakes with Masala Mayo (Machhi Ki Tikki)

When I was opening a restaurant in 2005, Indian-spiced fish wasn’t being served anywhere.  We wanted to create a dish that everyone would love, so we came up with these fish cakes.  They were so popular that we put them on the menus of the entire restaurant group – they were still on the menu when I left the group 14 years later.

These fish cakes are a fusion of Indian and Thai food and are the perfect way to use up leftover cooked fish.  I usually use cod, salmon or even stone bass, but any fish will work.  I don’t like to use fresh fish for fish cakes because I find the texture to be too bouncy, but if you’re making these from scratch, start with 500g fresh, uncooked fish and cook it on a baking tray in the oven at 220°C (200°C fan)/Gas Mark 7 for about 15 minutes, until cooked through.

Prep Note

Measure out your spices into two separate small bowls: one bowl for the paprika, fennel, turmeric and salt for the masala mayo and one for the fennel seeds, nigella seeds and turmeric for the fish cakes.

Prepare and measure out all the remaining ingredients before you start cooking so that everything is ready to go and the spices don’t burn.

1. Make the Pickle

1 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and thinly sliced

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

6 stems of fresh dill, roughly torn

4 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tsp grated of finely grated chopped fresh ginger

1 tsp fine sea salt

Mix together the cucumber, red onion, dill, vinegar, ginger and salt in a small bowl and set aside for 30 minutes to lightly pickle while you make the fish cakes, then drain.   

2. Cook the potatoes

500g Rooster or Maris Piper potatoes, peeled

Cook the whole potatoes in a saucepan of boiled salted water until cooked through but still holding their shape.  Drain and set aside to cool, then grate using the large hole on the box grater.

3. Make the Masala Mayo

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 fresh green chilli, finely chopped

¼ fresh red chilli, finely chopped

1 tbsp grated or finely chopped fresh ginger

1 tsp paprika

½ tsp fennel seeds, ground in a pestle and mortar

pinch of ground turmeric

¼ tsp fine sea salt

squeeze of lemon juice

2 tbsp mayonnaise

Heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat, then remove the pan from the heat.  Add the green and red chillies, ginger, ground spices, salt and a squeeze of lemon, then transfer to a bowl and allow to cool before stirring in the mayonnaise until well combined.  Chill in the fridge while you finish making the fish cakes.

4.Cook the fish cakes

1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for frying

1 tbsp grated or finely chopped fresh ginger

1 ½ tsp grated or finely chopped garlic

1 ½ tsp fennel seeds

½ tsp nigella seeds

¼ tsp ground turmeric

50g shop-bought Thai red curry paste

300g leftover cooked fish (or 500g fresh fish – see intro)

handful of chopped fresh coriander

5-10 fresh mint leaves, chopped 

While the potatoes are boiling and cooling, heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.  Add the ginger, garlic, fennel seeds, nigella seeds and turmeric and cook for 1 minutes, then add the curry paste and stir to combine.  Reduce the heat to low and cook for 3-4 minutes more, stirring constantly so that the paste doesn’t stick or burn. 

Flake the cooked fish into a large bowl, using this opportunity to make sure there are no bones.  Add the spiced curry paste, grated potato and fresh herbs and mix until well combined.  Divide into eight portions and form each one into a cake roughly 5cm across.

Heat some oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat.  Working in batches if necessary, so that you don’t crowd the pan, add the fish cakes and cook for 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown and heated through (remember, the fish and potato are already cooked).

To Serve

Serve the fish cakes with a spoonful of the masala mayo, a pinch of flaky sea salt on top and some pickled cucumbers and red onions on the side. 

Egg Curry (Anda Curry)

Many years ago, the food writer Alex Meehan asked me if I’d serve egg curry, as he had fond memories of his father making it.  I thought it was such a simple dish that no one would want to order it, but I put it on my menu just for him. 

Prep Note

Measure out your spices into four separate small bowls: one bowl for the turmeric and paprika for the eggs; one for the whole spices; one for the ground coriander, paprika, cumin, turmeric and mace or nutmeg for the curry; and one for the garam masala to finish.

Prepare and measure out all the remaining ingredients before you start cooking so that everything is ready to go and the spices don’t burn. 

1.Cook the eggs

4-8 eggs

pinch of ground turmeric

pinch of paprika

1 tbsp vegetable oil

To hard-boil the eggs, place them in a medium saucepan and add enough cold water to cover them by about 1cm.  Bring the water to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 6 minutes for a softer yolk and 7 minutes if you like it to be cooked through.  As soon as they are cooked, drain and cool them rapidly under cold running water before peeling and leaving whole.

Lightly score each peeled hard-boiled egg three or four times on one side with a small sharp knife, then place in a bowl with a pinch of turmeric and paprika and toss to coat.  Heat the tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.  Add the eggs and cook for 2 minutes just to give them a bit of colour and to crisp up the outside a bit.  Set aside.

2.Cook the whole spices

50ml vegetable oil

3-4 green cardamom pods

2 cloves

2 bay leaves

1 fresh or dried red chilli, halved lengthways

½ tsp cumin seeds

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat.  Add the cardamom pods, cloves, bay leaves, red chilli and cumin seeds and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. 

3.Make the curry 

2 large red onions (300g), finely diced 

2 tsp fine sea salt 

1 fresh green chilli, halved lengthways 

1 tbsp grated or finely chopped fresh ginger 

1 tbsp grated or finely chopped garlic 

1 ½ tbsp ground coriander 

1 ½ tsp paprika 

1 tsp ground cumin 

1 tsp ground turmeric 

pinch of ground mace or nutmeg 

2 large ripe tomatoes (200g), chopped 

1 tbsp tomato purée 

Add the onions and salt and cook for 5-8 minutes, until softened.  Add the green chilli, ginger and garlic and cook for 2 minutes more.

Add the ground spices and 50ml water so that the spices don’t burn.  Cook for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes more, until they’ve started to soften.  Stir in the tomato purée and cook for 1-2 minutes to cook out its raw flavour, then pour in another 400ml water and stir to combine.

Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the sauce has reduced and thickened a little, then blend briefly, including the whole spices and halved chillies, with a hand-held blend blender.  You don’t want it to be completely smooth; there should still be plenty of texture.  This curry is also quite thin because it’s traditionally served with lots of rice. 

4.To finish 

40ml cream 

1 lemon wedge

handful of chopped fresh coriander 

pinch of garam masala 

Stir the cream into the curry, then add the eggs and simmer for a few minutes, until they’ve heated through.  Add a squeeze of lemon, then fold in the chopped fresh coriander and a pinch of garam masala.  Remove the pan from the heat and allow the curry to settle for 5 minutes.

Serve with plain boiled basmati rice and warm naan (shop bought or homemade).

Mint and Coriander Chutney (Dhaniya Pudina Ki Chutney)

This chutney is the freshest thing you can eat – it brightens up just about anything.  You’ll find this chutney everywhere in India, but a lot of places often don’t use the right proportion of mint and coriander.  My mother would never use a blender when making this, but rather would pound it by hand in a pestle and mortar, it makes a lot, but you can cut the amounts in half if you don’t need quite so much.

1 green apple, skin on, cored and roughly chopped 

4 small fresh green chilies, roughly chopped 

juice of 2 lemons 

3 tbsp olive oil 

1 tsp fine sea salt 

½ tsp caster sugar 

3-4 ice cubes 

70g fresh mint (leaves and stems if they aren’t tough or woody)

50g fresh coriander (leaves and stems)

Put the apple, green chilies, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, sugar and ice cubes in a blender and blitz until combined.  The ice is needed to counteract the heat from the blades of the food processor or blender, which would discolour the fresh herbs and make your chutney turn black instead of the vibrant green it should be.

Add the fresh mint and coriander and blend again.  You may need to add more oil or ice cubes to get it to blend and combine.

Transfer to a clean jar and store in the fridge for 1-2 days.

Indian Rice Pudding (Kheer)

Whenever there is a celebration, festival or birthday in my family there will be rice pudding (kheer), so it always makes me think of the feasts we had at home.  My sister and I would eat it very slowly to make it last until everyone else had finished their share.  When I met my wife, Leena, this was the first thing she made for me.

Prep Note

Prepare and measure out all the spices and ingredients before you start cooking so that everything is ready to go.

1.Rinse and soak the rice

75g basmati rice 

Rinse the rice a few times in a big bowl of water.  After rinsing, leave the rice to soak for 30 minutes, then drain.  Rinsing the rice like this gets rid of any impurities.

2.Soak the coconut 

40g grated fresh coconut, dedicated coconut or dried coconut flakes 

If you’re using desiccated coconut or dried coconut flakes instead of fresh grated coconut, you need to soak it in a small bowl of hot water first. 

3.Make the rice pudding 

40g butter or ghee

4 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed open 

50g sultanas 

20g chopped pistachios 

2 litres full-fat milk  

Melt the butter or ghee in a large heavy-based saucepan or casserole over a medium heat.  Add the cardamom pods and drained rice and stir gently to coat the rice in the butter, then add the sultanas, almonds, pistachios and milk.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for about 40 minutes.

4.To finish 

90g caster sugar 

80g almond or cashew nuts 

tiny pinch of saffron (10 threads)

few drops of rosewater (optional)

Add the sugar, nut butter, coconut (either the fresh grated coconut or the soaked and drained dried coconut), saffron and rosewater (if using).  Simmer gently for another 10 minutes, stirring every now and then so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan now that you’ve added the sugar.  You want the rice to be completely soft and broken down in this pudding.

To Serve

This rice pudding can be served hot or cold, with a handful of chopped pistachios, cashews or walnuts and a few saffron threads scattered on top. 


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