Wednesday 30 January 2013

Pies from Paul, it's Paul's Pies

Paul's Pies pie review for Steak and Guinness Pie
Those that know me will know I've been talking quite a lot about a certain pie I've recently eaten. I present to you: Paul's Pies

I was attracted to the London Farmers Market at Notting Hill Gate on the search for a really great pie.

And what do I come across? A Paul's Pie stall! I'd heard a bit about Paul's Pies before - after all, they are a British Pie Awards silver winner 2012 (and a Gold award for his Venison and Mushroom pie), and that sort of acclaim does not go unnoticed by Pierate HQ. I'm delighted that the man behind the stall is actually award-winning pie maker and genuine nice guy Paul himself. 

It's nearing closing time at the market, but luckily Paul still has a few pies left. "I came here this morning with 60," says Paul, pointing to the table where all that remained was about 8 pies. There's a venison pie, a chicken pie, and this Steak and Guinness pie. I go for the Steak and Guinness. The demand for a Paul's pie is obviously high.

As I speak to Paul about his business a bit more, another customer arrives at the stall to buy a pie. "I've heard they're the best," she says, taking a pie from the ever-dwindling stack. High praise indeed.

S for  'steak' or S for 'Superpie?'

So this is the Paul's pie in question. It normally comes in a red box if you buy it from a shop, so I've added the red card here to help me imagine the red box. What strikes me is that the pie is massive. If only I could find the kitchen scales then I'd weigh the pie, as I'm sure it's weight would be quite impressive. Yes, it's £4.99, which is by no means the cheapest of pies, but if this pie delivers then it's money well spent. If you're looking for a budget pie then the price tag may put you off, but the pie is actually so large it's a meal in itself. The crimping and colour is pretty awesome, and after it has been heating in the oven for a bit then there's quite a nice golden caramelisation developing. The condition is great considering how large this pie is - I'd be concerned about the pie collapsing under its own weight but it holds up pretty well. 

This is the content of the pie:

Bam! Pie explosion!

Pretty impressive, right? If that isn't full marks for content then I'm not sure what is. The pie is stacked to the top crust with content. I can see the tender chunks of steak - which is even still a bit pink, wow! There is a mixture of roughly chopped and finely chopped onion, mushrooms and even bacon. This is epic.

I'm relieved that the pie also tastes as good as it looks. The steak is not at all chewy, and for a pie that looks like it doesn't have much gravy, all the ingredients are moist and delicious. There is a great peppery element to this pie as well, giving it a great kick alongside the Guinness. The pastry is also supreme.

This pie is stunning to look at, hefty, and a taste sensation. It's the ultimate comfort food, something which Paul tells me he strives for when he makes his pies. The British Pie Awards have got it right in awarding this pie very high honours. I'm bowled over by this pie, which puts so many other pies to shame. It's epic in every way I can imagine.

Paul's Pies Steak and Guinness Pie
Score: 6.73/7

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Monday 28 January 2013

A Pie Review: In Haiku

Tesco Roast Chicken Puff Pastry Pie

I wanted some food,
I found this roast chicken pie,
It cost me three pounds.

I brought the pie home.
It took a while to cook,
And the top was burnt.

It was a deep pie,
And the pastry case was full,
But t’was hard to tell-

Cos it fell apart,
As it wouldn't leave the foil.
I'd wanted to share.

The chicken was odd,
As it was quite rubbery,
And squeaked on my teeth.

The pie did not lie,
There was lots of chicken there,
Smothered in gravy.

The gravy was thick,
But t'was on the stodgy side,
Though there was a lot.

Was filling but bland.
I was quite disappointed-
It scores 3.9.

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Saturday 26 January 2013

PieTunes for the Top 20 over 6!

So the eagle-pied among you will have noticed that the 119th pie to be reviewed scored 6.01/7 and thus means that if you flick over to our Pie Rankings, every pie in our top 20 is now scoring 6/7 or higher! So many brilliant pies out there! So what better way to celebrate than to have a bit of a song and dance about our brilliant pies with a rewording of and Britney S-pie-ars number 1 tune "Scream and Shout" ('Bring the Pies' edition). Who knows, maybe it'll be available on PieTunes one day?!

Bring the pies

When you see us in the pub, You gotta serve those pies up, You gotta serve those pies up, You gotta serve those pies up
When we up in the pub, All pies on us, All pies on us, All pies on us

See the boys in the pub, They’re eating crust, They’re eating crust, They’re eating crust
Everybody in the pub, Eat pie with us, Eat pie with us, Eat pie with us

I wanna scream and shout and let the pie out
I wanna scream and shout and let it out
We say argh we argh we argh we argh
We say argh we argh we argh we argh
I wanna scream and shout and let the pie out
I wanna scream and shout and let it out
We say argh we argh we argh we argh
You are now now rocking with all the funky Pierateers

Oh yeah, Oh yeah, Oh yeah, Bring the pies
Rock and roll
Everybody let’s lose control
Eat more pie until we blow
Eating fast, we ain’t going slow-low-low
Hey yo
Eat the pie, now let’s review
Hope the pie you’ve had’s brand new
Post it up and let people know
Hey yo
Eating out and eating now
Cos we know what we talking bout
Sailing the seven Cs s Cs
Hey yo
Eat it up and eat it now
Here we go we go eat it
Cause everywhere we go we
Bring the pies

When you see us in the pub, You gotta serve those pies up, You gotta serve those pies up, You gotta serve those pies up
When we up in the pub, All pies on us, All pies on us, All pies on us

See the boys in the pub, They’re eating crust, They’re eating crust, They’re eating crust
Everybody in the pub, Eat pie with us, Eat pie with us, Eat pie with us
I wanna scream and shout and let the pie out
I wanna scream and shout and let it out
We say argh we argh we argh we argh
We say argh we argh we argh we argh
I wanna scream and shout and let the pie out
I wanna scream and shout and let it out
We say argh we argh we argh we argh
You are now now rocking with all the funky Pierateers

Oh yeah, Oh yeah, Oh yeah, Bring the pies
We eat on and on and on and on
When me and you eat together
I wish this pie would last forever
Cause I was feeling down and now feel better
We eat on and on and on and on
When me and you eat together
I wish this pie would last forever
Ever ever ever ever

I wanna scream and shout and let the pie out
I wanna scream and shout and let it out
We say argh we argh we argh we argh
We say argh we argh we argh we argh
I wanna scream and shout and let the pie out
I wanna scream and shout and let it out
We say argh we argh we argh we argh
We say argh we argh we argh we argh
I wanna scream and shout and let the pie out
I wanna scream and shout and let it out
We say argh we argh we argh we argh
You are now now rocking with all the funky Pierateers
continue reading "PieTunes for the Top 20 over 6!"

Will they get an Uppercrust on their opponents?

It won’t come as any surprise that the pie market is fast becoming one of the most highly competitive food markets out there. Specialist pie shops and shops starting to sell pies as part of their menu are appearing all over the place! Which is brilliant, don’t get me wrong, but it can make finding the best pie an ever growing challenge. What we need is a company out there who can get the uppercrust on their pastry making com-pie-titors and give us a name we can trust. And surely one of the best at doing that is Uppercrust themselves! Intriguingly rebranded from McDougalls, Uppercrust certainly appear to be appealing to the high end pie market. I get offered a pie invite by @xethian to try out the Uppercrust Chicken & Asparagus pie. It’s meant to be a “family sized” pie, though basically that means it serves two fully grown manly pie eaters. Here goes...

Pie Uppercrust Chicken and Asparagus
What a serving suggestion!
The pastry lid certainly didn’t cook golden brown as evenly as it had in the “serving suggestion” on the box – which, while we’re on the topic of “serving suggestions” was one of the best I’d seen in literally being the pie...on a plate! Classic! Glad I now know not to eat my next pie out of a dog bowl...
Despite the uneven crisping of the lid pastry, it was still very flaky and crisp, which is exactly how it should be. The pastry didn’t fall apart while serving, as it had done in previous pies. The chicken and asparagus oozed out of the pastry and was in a delicious white sauce. The capacity had well and truly been reached on this pie, with the chicken pieces lovely and tender and the sauce and asparagus complementing the meat perfectly. I’d certainly recommend getting involved! Worth it’s crust and then some.

Uppercrust Chicken & Asparagus
Score: 6.01/7

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Thursday 24 January 2013

ASDA Pie Review: Stakeout the steak in the gravy

Following the recent emptypiegate scandal, I thought it would only be fair to give ASDA a chance to redeem themselves. I head to the supermarket giant's frozen section and pick up a pack of 4 ASDA Steak and Gravy pies (624g) for a bargain-bucket price of £2. £2 for four pies? ASDA seem to be giving them away at that price, especially since my recent ASDA pie purchase set me back £2.88 for a single pie. Is this a false economy, though? Have I bought another empty pie of disappointment?

ASDA Steak and Gravy pie

The pie itself looks pretty neat, and the colour is a nice golden brown on top although for me a bit pale and uncooked around the sides and base. These pies are in fact pretty minuscule, so the promise of "4 pies" on the front is actually a bit misleading. If you added three of these pies together then you might reach about the size of an average pie, so what I've really got here is a "1.333 pack" of pies. Anyway, let's get stuck into the pie itself.

ASDA Steak and Gravy pie
Opening up the pie, the puff pastry top gives an nice crisp crunch. There seems to be quite a large amount of gravy here relative to the amount of steak, although I can count more than one-and-a-half bits of steak so it's already doing better than its more expensive counterpart. The steak seems to be of satisfactory quality - not too chewy. The gravy is a little runny for my taste, but it tastes okay. There's nothing groundbreaking here, but the pie seems well filled and of satisfactory quality for the low price. There's probably about as much content in this mini-pie than there was in ASDA's premium empty bistro pie. All things considered, a decent little effort from a pie that didn't promise much. Obviously the pie could have been larger, but I actually really quite enjoyed this pie for the price I paid. And I still have three left.


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Wednesday 23 January 2013

McDonald’s pie review – are you taking the Mc?

It’s almost with a sense of irony that on American Pie Day (or National Pie Day, as they call it in the States), when the Stars and Stripes come out to celebrate all things pie, I feel led to vent my frustration once again at one of America’s most successful global firms. For once again, given the op-pie-tunity to provide the world with a great, warm, winter-busting fruit pie, McDonald’s have once again given us... a battered slice. Quite frankly, I feel they’re just taking the mick.

McDonald's Sweet Berry Pie with Custard
McDonald's Sweet Berry Pie... or so they call it!

For in place of their regular Apple “Pie” and shortly after the release of their festive Christmas Orange Flavour Chocolate “Pie”, McDonald’s have this time come up with a Sweet Berry and Custard “Pie”. Yeah, that’s right. I think the quotation marks tell you everything.

It’s not pastry, it’s not a pie (with clearly defined base, sides and lid), and quite frankly, it’s not acceptable! I’m very close to writing an open letter to the head of McDonald’s UK McPastry department to try and combat this blatant false advertising under the “pie” banner, which has the potential to con avid pie eaters into purchasing and consuming a counterfeit good. Sure, the pastry product tastes nice, sure it’s a novel flavour, but for the last time... IT’S NOT A PIE!!!

Rant over.

Happy National Pie Day to all our American readers and bring on British Pie WEEK from 4th-10th March 2013 (that’s right, we Brits need a whole week to celebrate our pies!)

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Monday 21 January 2013

Pieminister Pie Review: Don't be a stranger to a Free Ranger pie

Pieminister Pie Review - Free Ranger

Pieminister Free Ranger pie
Pieminister Free Ranger pie
I'm out hunting today in the supermarket piesle ('pie aisle'), on the scent for a glorious pie. Imagine my joy when I smell out a reduced Pieminister Free Ranger pie on the shelves. After a quick check on the Pierate blog mobile phone app, I confirm that we have indeed not reviewed this pie before (and after 113 pie reviews even excluding the ones we didn't give a rating, I don't think you can blame me!). I call shotgun and swoop it up into my bear trap before any other hungry pie-hunter-gatherers can get their spears into it. At £3.49 reduced to £2.34, this is a bargain. Let's get the prey home!

The box promises "free range chicken, ham hock, leek and cheddar". Let's see whether the pie delivers or whether I've fired a blank here. This is the pie as it is about to come out of the oven. You can see clearly the golden pine colour of the pastry. The condition is great. There is a bit of interesting crumbleness on top of the pie there, giving it a rustic and authentic appearance.

Pieminister Free Ranger pie

Like the hungry predator that I am, I encircled my prey planning the best route of attack. I leap in with my forked implement before lacerating the pastry in a dual-pronged attack. The prey immediately succumbs to my wrath, giving way with a lovely cracking sound. It takes a last gasp before exhaling a dreamy puff of leek-scented steam.

Pieminister Free Ranger pie

In this cross-sectional view of the pie, you can see that the content is good with limited airspace (the photo doesn't quite do it justice, as a bit of the filling had fallen out). The individual ingredients can be clearly seen, rather than just a mishmash of minced product. It looks good and smells good. It also tastes very nice indeed. Pieminister have done well here, especially by sourcing free range ingredients. The gravy has a suitable creamy taste and velvety texture. The pastry is crispy and does not taste fatty or feel greasy. This pie feels wholesome, with a good density and wholesome character. There is a good ratio of ingredients, and it is a slightly different combination of fillings (although I have had the same combination of fillings in the past). It's wild and it's delicious. Pieminister haven't really put a foot wrong here. 
Pieminister Free Ranger Pie - Free range chicken, ham hock, leek and cheddar
Score: 6.19/7

and let us know your thoughts!

continue reading "Pieminister Pie Review: Don't be a stranger to a Free Ranger pie"

Friday 18 January 2013

Apple and Blackberry reviewed on your Apple or Blackberry?!

Tesco Apple and Blackberry Pie Review

The sweet combination of Bramley apple and blackberry filling in a butter enriched short crust pastry should go down a treat on any occasion, but when you have around 100 hungry mouths to feed on a weekend away, the pressure really is on to hit the sweet spot! So in steps Mr Tesco with the Tesco Apple & Blackberry Pie. Sure, it will no doubt taste quite similar to the recently reviewed Tesco Bramley Apple Pie, but what would the blackberries add to the mixer? did all those other pie boxes
"happen" to get in the background?!
Well, once again the Tesco sweet pie really does contain tasty chunks of Bramley apple and juicy blackberries in a delicious sweet sauce. There’s certainly no missing them, as they are slightly chewy due to their crisp nature, but the content is good and capacity next to bursting! The flavours complimented each other well and the golden coloured sweet butter enriched pastry. The short crust pastry was lovely and crunchy – perhaps almost a little too much bite to it but generally of a very high standard. The lid and base had no signs of sogginess, coming out in very good condition, and the filling was particularly fruity and full of flavour. While not blown away, it was a very reasonable pie (reasonably cheap at £2.60 for 8 slices) and I would certainly commend it. The taste was certainly consistently good throughout the pie. It seems like Tesco have finally got something right!

And as for the cryptic title of this blog post... well hopefully this pie will receive a few more thumbs up in the coming days, as this pie is planned to be part of an unofficial world record attempt, as we get as many reviewers as possible on the weekend away to use their mobiles and have their say on the pie too. Watch this space!

Oh and before you ask, yes I have checked the ingredients on the box, and no, there is no horse meat listed as being in this pie... (and for those of you who have no clue what I’m talking about, Tesco supermarket in the UK were recently embroiled in controversy for selling beef burgers that contained horse meat. Simple neigh-gligence if you ask me!)

Tesco Apple & Blackberry
Score: 5.15/7

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Thursday 17 January 2013

The pierate shop sets sail

At a time when our shopping High Street is changing drastically, with more and more landmark stores going into administration, what great news to hear that there is now an opportunity for you to order pierate merchandise from the comfort of your own sofa!

The pierate range includes (but is not limited to) pierate postcards, greetings cards, mugs, t-shirts and keyrings. I think you’ll agree, the black and white logo is striking and visual, but also practically helps you remember the website name and those all important seven Cs, which every pierateer (official or unofficial) needs to remember when reviewing their pie!

While we’re not expecting orders to flood in, the Pierate Shop has now set sail and is taking orders for any pierate fans out there. Just let us know what you would like the logo on and we’ll do our best to meet your order and get the merchandise to you as quickly as possible, based on our supplier’s charges and delivery options. We may not be able to provide everything but we very much hope that you will enjoy sailing with us! Orders should be directed to for discussion and pricing.

And as a celebration of the Pierate Shop being founded, we’re giving away free postcards and a free t-shirt at #Piefest2013 on 19th January 2013! Look out for a post about that shortly!
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Wednesday 16 January 2013

It's punny how you say that...

Now here at Pierate we hold unswervingly to the premise that if it isn't about pies, it isn't going on Pierate. No questions asked. Even our delve into Politics and our celebration of the Queen’s Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympic Games were all soaked in pie-related goodness.

But I guess with every rule, there has to be some sort of get-out clause. And for us here at Pierate, if there is one thing we’re willing to discuss on this blog that isn’t directly related to the humble pie itself, it’s having a bit of pun with words. For what would a good pie review be without a play on the name, the ingredients or where we ate pie?!

So thank you BBC for your 1,200 words spent debating the pros, the cons, the rise and fall of this humble art form:

I particularly commend the following from Sally Davies:

The efflorescence of punnery on social networking sites...suggests that puns have become acceptable as part of the online conversation.”

However despite all the debate and the suggestion of a bright online future for the pun, for us here at Pierate there is no doubt. Like you can’t have a filling without a full casing of pastry surrounding it, you can’t have a good pie review without some pun and games. Fact! 
continue reading "It's punny how you say that..."

Monday 14 January 2013

Attention! Sargents Mince Pies come up shallow

I guess it should have got my ATTENTION! as soon as I read it. Maybe I’m being a bit shallow venting my disappointment on the web. But I can’t help thinking these were very standard and rather shallow Mince Pies. I guess you would have to say they do exactly what they say on the packet, but it certainly means that they don’t get anywhere close to the top 20 on pierate!
As it is, we should probably apologise for the lack of Mince Pies reviewed this winter – in fact, in Pierate history – so I guess a Mince Pie boot camp may be in order next Christmas. But there’s no doubt of all the Mince Pies I’ve eaten over my pie eating career, this has to be pretty much as standard as they come. The short crust pastry was nice, however being so shallow, there wasn’t much filling, and what came as even more of a surprise in such a shallow pie was that they actually still had space to fill the pie with air! Not a compliment at all.

That's right - just 15mm high... (shallow)
While nothing wrong with the taste, it did feel lacking in...well...pie really! But I’d like to thank the Niclasens for hosting this pie tasting session (and the kids seemed happy enough with the pies, to be fair). Still, I’d recommend sticking to the luxury deep filled mince pies on offer next Christmas time.

Sargents Standard Shallow Mince Pies
Score: 4/7

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Tuesday 8 January 2013

Clarks Pie Review

I've come here to Clerkenwell, London, to sample a pie from Clarks Pie and Mash Shop.

It looks to be quite a traditional pie joint, with a brown and green painted shop front that promotes the sale of eels and pie & mash. A man hovers outside. He is on the phone, and appears to poke his head in and out of the door several times.

Once inside, I see a hand-written price list on the wall. It seems to be quite non-specific - giving the price for 'one small pie and mash', 'one large pie and mash', 'two large pies and mash', and 'eels'. There doesn't seem to be a list of pie fillings that I can see anywhere. When I am served, I ask for a 'large pie' in the hope that I'll be given a list of fillings I can choose from. I am not. I am instead just served,  at an acceptable cost of £2.20, one non-specific 'large pie' in a take-away container. Well that's fine, I think, perhaps they only do one type of filling. And then as I left the shop, it struck me - perhaps this pie joint is so traditional that it is actually an eel pie?

I cut open the pie just to check. Luckily it doesn't look like any eel I've ever eaten (eel is actually quite nice, but I just wasn't in the mood for that sort of thing today) - it looks like it is probably minced beef. Potentially.

As you can see from the picture, the pie looks a little strange to me. The pastry, rather than being flaky, feels to me a bit rubbery and looks quite anaemic and flabby. The base of the pie is suffering from what Mary Berry would call "soggy bottom", and although the top crust of the pie is firm, it is not crispy and has no crunch. I also feel the pie looks quite small for a 'large' pie - but perhaps the 'large' actually referred to the mash (which I didn't order) rather than the pie itself? The condition the pie was presented to me wasn't great - in an oversized polystyrene box. What some of the pie vendors these days are doing are selling their pies in clever cardboard boxes - a much nicer presentation I think.

I am still none the wiser about the content of this pie - but this can often lead to a pleasant surprise! But unfortunately I wasn't pleasantly surprised in this case. The filling - I'm not sure, some kind of miscellaneous minced meat, likely candidate beef - looked and smelled a bit like cat-food to me. I know that sounds a little harsh, but I really couldn't get this thought out of my head. I'm quite glad I didn't order two pies, which I was considering, because even after one pie I felt a little queasy. I had to stop by at a local newsagent to buy a strongly-flavoured fruity soft drink to remove the cat-foody taste from my mouth. For a shop that specialises in 'pie & mash', I would have expected much much more. This was just my opinion though, I have heard good things about this shop.

continue reading "Clarks Pie Review"

Thursday 3 January 2013

ASDA Pie Review: Empty promises and empty pies?

It is at times like this when I am incredibly grateful to have Pierate as an outlet through which I can express my distaste for pies that I have recently eaten. We love to let you know about pies we've loved and pies we've thought were okay, but it's also important to let you know about pies we weren't so keen on.

In preparation for the Pierate Pie Festival Extravaganza 2012 (the review of which is coming soon - we're just gathering together the footage of this epic event!), I thought I'd pay a visit to my local ASDA store to purchase some pies. Seeing an ASDA Bistro Ultimate Steak and Ale pie for sale, and remembering how good the ASDA Bistro Ultimate Steak pie was, I thought I'd splash out on the £2.88 price tag it commanded. It's got to be worth it, right?

I was wrong. I thought it was a shocker. So gutted!

On the face of it, this pie looks quite promising. It has a quirky appeal to it, sporting an unconventional 'basin' -style shortcrust base topped off with a rustic wholesome lid. Overall, the colour of this pie and the condition which it has arrived score quite well. Unfortunately, that's about where the positives for this review end.

As any pie aficionado worth their crust will tell you, you can't judge a pie by its appearance. As I open the pie up, the pastry is not the only place where cracks are starting to show. Despite its handsome looks, this pie was a bit of a let down beneath the pastry crust. 

Er, sorry, what was this pie meant to be again? Steak and ale? Perhaps if they'd called this pie Steak and Ale Gravy pie then I'd be a bit more forgiving, but the package did promise me that it was "generously filled with marinated British steak". I'm sorry ASDA, but I personally counted TWO small pieces of steak in my pie. I seriously scavenged around for more, but that is all I could find. I suppose I must give them credit for the fact that the steak pieces were at least tender, but I am being generous by even calling the second steak piece a "piece" - I thought it was more of a morsel. Here at Pierate we care an awful lot about pies and the air:filling ratio (so much so that we are set to release a Guide to the Seven Cs with a whole section on air:filling and Content), and I felt this pie was as empty as my wallet after a pie binge.

We've suffered from empty pie syndrome before, and believe me it takes some getting over. I am so disheartened by the lack of content to this so-called "premium" pie that I am struggling to bring myself to review the rest of this pie, but I must soldier on and at least give the pie any credit it is due. To be fair, the gravy does taste pretty nice with a good texture and consistency, and the pastry is nice and crunchy albeit a little bit dry. Perhaps ASDA could counteract the dryness of the pastry by adding a little bit more water during the baking process, or some gravy. I will have to re-review the ASDA Bistro Ultimate Steak pie to see whether ASDA have become complacent and dropped their standards, or whether ASDA are just inconsistent with quality across their range (or maybe I just had a bad experience this time round).

So how do I rate what is essentially a £2.88 (yep, don't forget this pie carries a hefty price tag!) pastry shell? Credit for the innovative pastry usage, nice tasting gravy, quality chewiness of the steak and good colour. Heavy heavy point deductions for putting a high price on a pie that I felt was deplorably underfilled in this instance.

Score: 2.15/7
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