December 17, 2013

Making idli and dosa batter from scratch

Making dosa batter

Lil A is a big fan of idli and dosa. We have it every week. Till now, I used to take the easy route when it came to idli and dosa batter. I just bought it from the store. But this year, my MIL was making it from scratch when she was visiting us and I really tasted the difference - the idlis were soft and pillowy just like one reads about, and the dosas were crunchy and light.

When she was leaving this time, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go back to store-bought batter. I also wasn't sure if I would do it at home, you know, I don't have any of the special grinders. But the taste of homemade idli lured me.

Before my MIL left, I asked her for her recipe. She had some measures "2 cups of rice and 3/4 cup of lentil" and not so much for the other things "you know how much water to put, you know how it should be." So after she left, I decided to try making it from scratch on my own a couple of times and noted down the water measurements too.

It takes some time for it to be ready, but once you taste the homemade goodness, there is no going back.

You want to start with idli rice - buy the whole grain one, and whole peeled urad dal.

With the below listed quantity, I get enough batter to make idli for all of us and just enough for quick dosas too.

2 cups idli rice
3/4 cup whole
1 tbspoon methi seeds
4 cups water
4 1/2 tspoon salt

Soak 2 cups of rice in a bowl. Soak 3/4 cup whole urad dal and 1 tbspoon methi seeds together in a bowl. Let them soak overnight and you will see little bubbles in the urad dal bowl.

Drain the water and dal till they are almost dry.

Grind the dal dry once, and then add 1/2 cup water and grind again. Then add another 1/4 cup and grind some more till it becomes a find paste.

Do the same for the rice, do a dry grind and then add 1/2 cup water and grind, and then another 1/2 cup and grind till it becomes smooth.

Since I don't have any special grinders, I just use the Sumeet mixie that I got from India a few years back.

Making dosa batter
Now add the dal and the rice together and 1 cup of water. It should make a thick batter. Let it sit overnight in a warm place like the oven with a light one or in a hot case or just wrap it with a blanket.

The next day you will notice a frothier batter which probably has doubled. Keep it in the fridge.

Making dosa batter

 The batter is now ready for idli or dosa. Add salt to the batter just before use.

Heat a flat pan, take about 1/2 of batter add another cup of water and make thin crepe-like dosas.

Serve with almond chutney for a busy weeknight dinner.

November 27, 2013

Roasting brussel sprouts with mustard paste for Thanksgiving

Roasted brussel sprouts

Have you ever bought something on a whim? A couple of months ago, I saw someone talking about  Food Huggers on Facebook and on a whim I went to kickstarter and supported them. Then I forgot about it. Just last week, the new set arrived. I am quite excited to use them and will report back on how well it works.

And they make excellent toys to distract a 1-yr-old while I chop and prep for cooking as well.

What are you making this Thanksgiving?

I love brussel sprouts and usually roast them for a quick side. Every time I roast them, I use a different spice mix. I think I may have found a good combination in the mustard paste, garlic and lemon juice combination I used this time.

If you are still thinking about a side for Thanksgiving, give this a try.

Roasted brussel sprouts
good bunch of brussel sprouts
1 tbpoon of mustard paste (I used the bengali kasundi which is quite pungent)
3-4 garlic  - minced
1 tbspoon lemon juice
salt to taste
1/2 tspoon fresh ground pepper

Heat the oven to 350 deg F.

Cut the brussel sprouts. In a bowl, mix the mustard paste, lemon juice, garlic with salt and pepper and mix it generously with the brussel sprouts.

Set it aside for 30 minutes.
Roasted brussel sprouts
Roast the brussel sprouts for 18-20 min till they are done.

Serve warm.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

November 22, 2013

Back from travels with Tanjore Marathi gudu gudu somasi

I have been missing from the blog for a while. First I was busy at work and then I was in India for a week traveling for work and now am catching up. How have you been? 

Traveling and work

Food in India
While there, I got to eat some delicious food. Most of the working lunches served buffet style at different institutions. I am curious about one fact. I saw different kind of sandwiches, pasta, cutlets and boiled vegetables on the menu. Is this the new norm or was it because there was an American delegation visiting? Please leave me comments and let me know.

Food in India
I tried the Mother Dairy Mishti Doi and have to say it was pretty darn good!


Cake sailing
Before I left, we celebrated  Tiny M's first birthday. I made two simple cakes - one was a banana cake and the other one was a orange cake. The frosting was whipped cream with a sail boat theme.

We also hosted a Diwali party for family. The menu was a mix of Tanjore Marathi and regular food with 3-4 different kinds of sweets. Before we sat down for dinner, we even braved the cold to set off some sparklers and fireworks.

Tanjore Marathi somasi

Everyone is now planning for Thanksgiving menu, but I have to tell you about this somasi I made for Diwali. The name gudu gudu comes from the sound the filling makes inside. My MIL had been telling me about this sweet and I decided to try it even if it meant deep frying late at night.

We made it in a few batches after the kids went to sleep.

They turned out well and we had a special treat for Diwali dinner!

here is how we did it.

(makes about 15-16)
For the outer layer
2 cups - all purpose flour
3/4 cup - rava/sooji (cream of wheat)
pinch of salt
1/4 cup oil

2/3 cup - roasted Bengal gram
1/4 cup - coconut
2 tbspoon - poppy seeds
1 tspoon - cardamom powder
2/3 cup - sugar


Gudu gudu somasi
1. Grind the gram flour and toast the coconut and poppy seeds. Grind the sugar with the cardamom powder.

Gudu gudu somasi
2. Mix it all together to make the filling. Now set it aside.

3. Mix all-purpose flour, rava, salt and oil to make a soft dough. Set it aside for 30-45 min.

Gudu gudu somasi
4. Roll out the dough long.

Gudu gudu somasi
5. Cut 15-16 equal pieces.

Gudu gudu somasi
6. Roll it out thin.

Gudu gudu somasi
7. Then put a t-spoon of the filling.

Gudu gudu somasi
8. Close it tight and then deep-fry a minute or two on each side till they are golden brown.

Gudu gudu somasi
Serve as a snack or a side.

October 14, 2013

Bengali Tomato chutney with apricots

Sandesh and rasogolla

Shubho Bijoya everyone. Here is some rosogolla and sandesh that I made during the Durga Puja for you all. How did you celebrate your festive season?

Somehow, the last couple of months have been busy socially. We have had guests, and have hosted dinners and lunches with friends.

Here are couple of pictures from the last dinner and lunch.
Hosting dinner with friends

This was dinner with a friend visiting from India. The menu was keema matar, lobia, fresh cucumber salad, aloo ghobi (from another friend at the dinner), homemade chapatis and jeera rice. Dessert was turkish delight and mochi ice-cream.

Picnic lunch to celebrate puja and fall
Fun at the park The last few days have been gorgeous around here. So yesterday we decided on am impromptu lunch picnic with friends and fun was had at the Nichols Arboretum. We took vegetable fried rice, chicken kebabs, alu bhaja (sauted potatoes), watermelon and banana smoothie and sandesh.

Is there a recipe you have made multiple times and yet you tweak it every so often? It's the tomato chutney recipe for me. I've made it with raisins, dates and yet I am always looking for new combinations just to change it little bit. I've made it with apricots the last few times and want to share it with you.

Tomato chutney with apricots
Nothing says the arrival of the Puja season like tomato chutney. Whether it is Durga Puja, Laxmi Puja, Kali Puja, or Saraswati Puja, or any other celebration, tomato chutney adds the sweetness to the khichudi. I have blogged about the tomato and date chutney before, and this is my new favorite. The apricots add the chewiness to the chutney and it tastes great with khichudi or even as a spread on sandwiches or a side with any other meal.

4-5 medium ripe tomatoes
7-8 apricots (chopped)
1 dry red chilli
1/2 tspoon mustard seeds
2 bay leaves
1 tbpoon cooking oil
2 tbspoon brown sugar

Heat oil in a pan and temper it with mustard seeds, bay leaves and red chilli.

Add the tomatoes and apricots cook it with closed lid on medium-low heat till the water from the tomatoes becomes less.
Tomato chutney with apricots
Add  suhar cook it for another 3-4 minutes. It becomes a thick mix and everything blends together.

Serve it warm or cold.

October 03, 2013

Bhapa Ilish (steamed ilish fish curry)

Ilish Mach bhapa

Now that Lil A goes to preschool and has a gang of friends, he comes home with new stories. Stories about his school day, what he did, but they don't come when I ask him. When I ask him about his day at school and what he did, he says "I don't know." 

Then the stories come out slowly at most unexpected times. Yesterday at dinner table he talked about how he "runned" and was the "bestest" superman. Later in the evening, when he was drinking milk he said his teacher said he was the "kindest leader" yesterday.

My favorite moment was when he was in the bathroom and he told me "You are my 'bestest' friend." "You are too, my lil one, you are too."

It reminded me of a time from my childhood, when I was very attached my thakuma (grandmother). My phisis would tease me saying, "dekh tor takumar gaal kheye niyechi." (see I ate your grandmother's cheeks).  I would be greatly offended and smooth her cheeks with mine.

Who do you consider your good friend?

In other food news, we had a bumper herbs crop this year, so I have been using it lavishly.

Pesto pasta Here is a pasta I whipped up on a week night with a mix of parsely and mint pesto. I sauted some veggies, added the pesto and the pasta and mixed it all together and served with some fresh cheese.

Dinner for lil ones

We also have been making veggie parathas regularly because Lil A loves it. Here is a sample of his dinner plate - paratha, dal, avacado and some homemade dahi (yogurt).

watermelon popsicle

Lil A's love for ice-cream and popsicles continues. This is a quick watermelon popsicle that I made with watermelon, little sugar and lemon juice and pureed and froze it.

What do your little ones like to eat?

Coming back to this recipe, I have to say that this recipe has been sitting with me for a while. This is my dad's and my favorite way to eat ilish (shad). The other favorite is ilish with begun (eggplant).  The fish is moist, soft and full of flavor.

When my parents are visiting, I always make my trip to the bangladeshi store religiously to get pabda, tangra, rui and of course ilish. This year, the store owner told me all about the soaring prices of ilish back in Bangladesh and in the US. He double checked if I still wanted to buy ilish. I nodded and then he said "tomar jonne didi" (just for you sister) and took out an ilish with roe (not too big, not too small), and made steak pieces.

Ilish Mach bhapa

Ilish steaks
1/2 + 1/2 tspoon turmeric powder
1 1/2 tspoon mustard seeds
1 green chilli (increase according to taste)
1/2 tspoon mustard oil
salt to taste
cilantro to garnish (optional)

Clean the fish and rub it with salt and turmeric powder. In a grinder, grind the green chilli with mustard seeds, turmeric powder and little water to make a smooth paste.

Take a vessel and put the paste, 1 1/2 cups water and make a smooth curry. Add the fish pieces in the paste. Add little salt to taste. Then add the mustard oil. Put the vessel in the pressure cooker and steam on low medium heat without the whistle for 12 minutes.

Ilish Mach bhapa

Take out and garnish and serve with white rice.

September 19, 2013

Cardamom and almond flour cake

Cardamom Almond flour cake

This year we planted a bunch of different veggie plants in the backyard patch. For some reason, the eggplantplant would flower, and then wither away. I didn't see anything for the longest time. Then, there was a little eggplant that came. But the squirrels took it away. Yes, the ones that live in our neighborhood are vicious and not scared at all. Our friends can vouch for us. They've seen them go for the veggies when we are in the backyard!

From garden to table
So when the the plant had another eggplant, I was super thrilled. But also nervous. After a few week's of suspense of whether the eggplant will survive, thankfully it did, I had my first ever eggplant produce.

From garden to table
The garden veggies made for a delicious lunch the next day, the squash was used in a sambar and the eggplant went in a potato and eggplant bhaji.

I now have some carrots in the ground. What about you? Did you plant something this summer? Maybe you have a window garden? What's growing in there?

Coming back to the recipe, I first made this cake in February when it was snowing outside. I wanted to make my orange and almond flour cake. But I didn't have any oranges. It was dark, freezing and we were hosting a mini party to celebrate Aswin's tenure in the evening.

So I experimented with the cardamom and a simple almond flour cake. I beat in the egg white to make it light. It turned out good.

That evening, we ordered in some takeout, had some munchies, some soup and this cake. I have made it again since then, but I just never get around to taking a decent picture. By the time I think about it, the cake is gone.

But I shall persevere and I hope to have a good picture soon.

The flavor is delicate, flaky and the toasty, fragrant smell of cardamom coming later, but it lingers.

1 1/2 cups almond flour
3/4 cup sugar (i used the brown sugar I had at home)
1/2 tspoon cardamom powder (fresh ground)
1 tspoon baking powder
3 eggs separated
Pinch of salt
Powdered sugar for decorating

Heat the oven to 350deg F. Mix the Baking powder and cardamom flour with the almond flour. Keep aside.

Separate the eggs and beat the egg white till it is fluffy.

Mix the egg yolks with the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time till it is mixed in. Now add the almond flour slowly to that mix. Once it's done, add the egg whites in. Take it in big scoops. Avoid excessive mixing, rather try to fold it in.

Once it's all mixed in, pour it in a buttered, and floured pan, cook for 40 minutes till the toothpick comes out clean.
Cardamom Almond flour cake

Let it cool and serve with powdered sugar. 

September 11, 2013

Zucchini and corn fritters

Zucchini & corn fritters

Right around this time, I have an inexplicable urge to keep the summer going. Not that I don't like Fall, I do.

I love the dip in temperatures, the leaves changing colors, the new vegetables that make an appearance in the farmers market and the busy-ness of a whole new semester. But it's hard to let go of the laid back quality of summer.

This summer, we had our hands full with two little ones, so we didn't make any big plans. We hung out at home, went swimming, visited family, and friends in neighboring states, threw some ball in the backyard, blew some bubbles and just like that, summer is over.

The new school year comes with transitions. Lil A is going to preschool full days now and Tiny M is starting daycare. That means being more organized with meal plans. What do your kids like to take to school?

Right at this time, I went to a friend's anniversary party. Them being super bakers, I didn't take anything sweet, rather settled on something savory - zuuchini and corn fritters and served it with cilantro and mint chutney. The fritters really capture the feel of summer with the lightness of zucchini and the pop of corn with each bite.

I grated the zucchini, but you could even try to chop it thin. I grilled the corn, but you could even boil it.

2 medium zucchini - grated
1 corn on cobb - grilled
1/2 onion
bunch of cilantro - chopped thin
1/2 cup besan (chickpea flour)
1/4 cup rice flour
1/2 tspoon cumin seed powder
1/2 tspoon chat masala
1/4 tspoon turmeric powder
1/4 tspoon fresh black pepper
salt to taste
1/2 cup water (more if needed)
1/4 cup oil to shallow fry the fritters


Zucchini & corn fritters
Cut and chop all the ingredients.

zucchini and corn fritters
Mix it together with the spices and let it sit for 30 minutes. Zucchini will give some water. Stir it together and add the 1/2 cup water till it becomes a thick batter.

Zucchini & corn fritters
Take a big tablespoon and that is a good serving size.

zucchini and corn fritters
Heat oil in a shallow pan and put a tablespoon of batter on the pan to fry. After 2-3 minutes, flip and  flatten each fritter with the back of the flippers. Let it cook for another couple of minutes.

Zucchini & corn fritters
Serve with some cilantro and mint chutney.

August 31, 2013

Watermelon Lemonade for the summer is finally here!

Watermelon lemonade

The last two weeks of heat and I believe the summer is finally here. It is hot, humid, the fans are running non stop and a part of me is constantly looking for something cool to drink.

Even Lil A comes and asks "Are you really, really thirsty?" waiting for me to say yes, so he can say "so am I." He will then go on to have a glass of water with me. Even Tiny M will see his sippy cup with water and start saying "de de (give, give)".

So a couple of days ago, I was making lemonade to go with evening dinner. I got the ingredients together - sugar, lemons and then my eyes rested on the mini watermelon that has been sitting on the counter for good 4-5 days. I hit upon the idea of watermelon lemonade and  quickly got to work.

I pureed the watermelon till I had a puree almost like juice. I didn't sieve it, but you could and them mix it with the lemonade.

The result was something unique and delicious. Lil A liked and drank his cup quickly. The little one got a few sips and I even froze little bit for popsicles which were met with "oohs and aahs" the next day.

1/2 mini watermelon
2 fresh lemons
1/4 cup sugar
3-4 cups water
tiny bit ginger for adults

Chop the watermelon and puree it with the ginger and water till most of the lumps are gone. In a bowl make a sugar and lemon syrup with 1/2 cup water till the sugar dissolves.

Watermelon lemonade
Mix the lemon and sugar syrup with the watermelon puree. Add some ice and serve cold.

Enjoy the Labor Day weekend.

August 21, 2013

Aloo beans fry (potato and green beans stirfry)

Aloo beans fry

This is one of the first recipes I made when I came to the US. This and aloo phulkopi (potato and cauliflower). We were four girls staying in a small apartment in Boston from different parts of the country. We had never met before, but were going to spend time studying at and living together.

Adjusting to the new place and a full course load kept us busy throughout the day. It was only in the evening that we would relax a little, chat, catch up and cook. We took turns cooking. We were novices, cooking with recipes, or with a taste in mind. There were accidents and successes and we slowly got better. I will regale you with some of the stories later.

The menu was rather simple in those days, but I look back rather fondly. A and I joined forces a few times a week when it was our turn and it was during those evenings that I perfected this recipe and had it with dal or rajma and rice. It tastes the best when the masala is all soaked up by the potatoes and the beans.

When the summer is in full-swing, I get fresh green beans from farmer's market, and in winter's I use the frozen green beans for the stirfry. It's simple and quick and perfect for a weekday lunch or dinner.

(serves 4)
1 lb green beans (chopped) if using frozen it should be about 2 cups
3-4 potatoes, washed and chopped in cubes
1" ginger grated
1 tspoon cumin seeds
1/2 tspoon turmeric powder
1/2 tspoon cumin seed powder
1/4 tspoon red chilli powder
pinch of asafoetida
2 green chillies
salt to taste
3 tbspoon oil
1/2 cup water

Keep the chopped potatoes and beans seperate. Heat oil in a deep pan and temper it with asafoetida. Then add the cumin seeds and the green chillies. Saute for a minute till the aroma comes and then add the ginger and the turmeric powder.

Add the potatoes and saute for 3-4 minutes till potatoes take a glaze. Now add the green beans, cumin seed powder and the chilli powder. Cover and let it cook for 3-4 minutes covered on low heat.. Now add salt, water and let it cook for another 4-5 minutes on medium heat. Do not cover and let the water evaporate.

Aloo beans fry
The stir fry is ready once the water evaporates and the potatoes and beans are cooked. Serve warm with dal and rice or even chapati.

August 07, 2013

Pui shaak-er chorchori, chingri diye

Pui shaker chorchori, chingri diye

How is your summer going so far? Hardly feels like summer if you ask me. With intermittent rain and cool nights, it doesn't feel like we had too many hot and warm days. So I am extra grateful that the weather was perfect during all our outings to the beach.

Evening at the beach
Lil A is a beach bum. He can stay there all day spending time digging out sand, making holes, watering them, and running in the water.  We will have to wait and see how Tiny M reacts to the water. This time he spent most of his time watching his brother, the water and sea gulls from Baby Bjorn. He did get his feet wet several times when Lil A came out of the water and insisted on taking Tiny M there.

My little backyard veggie patch is doing OK this year. I haven't had many tomatoes though. I had one good batch and now I am waiting to get another.

But I haven't been lacking fresh and geen vegetables. Between Patel Brothers, Bombay Grocers, and the Farmer's Market I have been finding fresh greens and vegetables every week.

Pui shaak is a new find at Patel Brothers. I was so excited to get it especially when my parents were here because of the anticipation of learning a new recipe. And I was not disappointed.

I had Pui shaak-er chorchori, chingri diye. This chorchori can also be made niramish (without the chingri). Pui is a delicate green and melts nicely when it is cooked. It is also called Malabar climbing spinach and is used in all Asian cooking.

1/2 lb Pui shaak - cleaned and chopped
2 small carrots - cleaned and cubed, pumpkin or squash also works well
1 small eggplant - cut in cubes

1 1/2 potato - peeled and cut in cubes
1/4 cup shrimp cut in small pieces
2 green chillies
1 tspoon Panch Phoron
1/2 tspoon turmeric powder
4 tbspoon oil
Salt to taste
Pinch of sugar

For paste:
1 tspoon mustard seeds
1 tspoon poppy seeds

Rub the shrimp/chingri with salt and turmeric powder and set it aside for 30 minutes. Heat 2 tbspoon oil and saute the chingri for 3-4 minutes. Set it aside.

Heat the rest of the oil in a pan and temper it with panch phoron and then add the green chillies. Add all the vegetables one by one along with Pui shaak. Stir and cover and let it cook on low medium heat. After a couple of minutes, add the turmeric powder. Then add the salt and sugar.

The shaak and the vegetables with start to release the water. Now add the  mustard and poppy seed paste and cook for another 3-4 minutes.  Open the lid, add the shrimp/chingri pieces, stir it together and let it cook with the lid for another 2-3 minutes.

Pui shaker chorchori, chingri diye
Serve hot with rice.

August 01, 2013

Noodles with eggplant and mango [New series: Cooking with Yotam!]

Noodles with eggplant and mango
It's been nearly two years since I made an appearance here on Ahaar. I've been cooking, of course, but blogging fell by the wayside for a variety of reasons. But I've been inspired to give food blogging another go in part because Mandira and I have been exploring Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty over the past few weeks. And given how much we like the recipes in the book, we've decided to launch a new series here - Cooking with Yotam!

Needless to say, we're not going to simply reproduce recipes from Plenty. Besides, we're not the kind of cooks who plan meals based on recipes in a book. What we do most often is look for interesting new recipes and tweak them based on what's in our pantry. So, with due apologies to Yotam Ottolenghi if we're straying too far from his recipes, here's our first in our Cooking with Yotam series.

Having taken a quick look at our stock of fresh vegetables and fruits, I settled on 'Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango.' Perfect for a hot and humid summer day, I said to myself. Since this was an impromptu end-of-workday thing, I didn't have all the ingredients the recipe called for. But I did fine with I had in the fridge and the backyard vegetable patch. And it turned out to be a fantastic dish!

Here's the recipe with my very minor tweaks.
Noodles with eggplant and mango
(Serves 3)
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 green chili (chopped)
grated zest and juice of 1 lime (I used about 3 tbsp of lime juice)
2 eggplants, cut into 3/4-inch dice
1/2 pack whole wheat spaghetti
1 large ripe mango, cut into 3/8-inch dice
basil leaves (I ended up using mint leaves - about 7-8 sprigs - and I daresay basil wouldn't have worked as well)
cilantro (recipe calls for 2-1/2 cups. Too much, imho. I used a fistful)
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced

In a small saucepan, warm the vinegar, sugar and salt until the sugar dissolves. I took this off the heat, added the garlic and chili and set it aside to cool. Hold off on adding the lime juice until the very end.

In a large skillet, heat up some canola oil and sautee the eggplant. Once they turn golden brown, transfer the eggplant to a colander, sprinkle them with salt and set them aside. The noodles can cook during this time (10-12 minutes for whole wheat spaghetti, slightly less for the soba noodles I would think). Drain the noodles and set those aside as well on a separate plate.

While Ottolenghi's recipe asks you to toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, eggplant, herbs and onion in a mixing bowl, I ended up mixing all this in the skillet (at low-medium heat) I used to saute the eggplant.

Noodles with eggplant and mango
To be honest, I wasn't entirely sure how this seemingly crazy mix of ingredients would come together. But the end result was brilliant! Easily my favorite pasta dish now :)

July 22, 2013

Winner of the giveaway

Yay, I have a giveaway winner! I am thrilled that the event received all the attention from my readers and so many friends and bloggers dropped by to wish Ahaar. I am truly touched!

So let's get to how the winner was chosen for the giveaway.

1. First I entered all the comments in the order they had left their comment on the blog in a spreadsheet with the number for each comment.

2. There were also some comments on Facebook, so I added them in the sheet.

Ahaar giveaway
There are about 35 numbers/ commentors.

Then I went to and entered the numbers with Min=and Max=35 and hit Generate. The random number thus generated was 24.

Ahaar giveaway
The person corresponding to number 24 is Rima Sengupta. Drumroll!

Rima, I don't have a e-mail address for you. Please leave a comment with your e-mail or drop me a line at: so I can arrange to send you the goodies. I hope to hear from you soon.

Thank you for playing and I hope you will continue to visit.


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