Pork Stroganoff

Cooking is like therapy to me. Whenever I’m feeling stressed or blue getting into that kitchen soothes it all away – for a while at least! Leeks, for me, are one of the all time great underrated veggies. You never hear anyone talking about the delicious leek they had for dinner or that fantastic soup, which just wouldn’t have been the same without the addition of that most straightforward yet complex of roots. It’s a crying shame really because they are truly gorgeous and they deserve their time in the limelight as much as any vegetable. Of course, one of the classic accompaniments to the leek is pork. It needs that saltiness to bounce off, don’t you think? Two of the dishes I cook most often that use this combination are my famous (well to my family anyway) Ham and Leek and my astonishingly good Pork Stroganoff.

Really, the only similarlity between this pork stroganoff and my beef one is that they both have a creamy sauce and I serve it with brown rice. The pork I’ve used here is organic, locally reared and is seriously tender. Yes, more expensive than your usual supermarket pork chops but I want to know where my meat has come from and I’m willing to pay for it. Unfortunately nowadays we expect cheap food, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not going to put a cost on my health or the environment. Okay, rant over;)

I used fromage blanc this time around because I’d never cooked with it before and whilst it did a decent job I think in the future I’ll stick to creme fraiche, as the consistency is a little thicker. I like to cheat a bit when it comes to the rice too and use a ricecooker – I honestly don’t know what I did before I owned one! Be warned though – this may taste phenonmenal but sadly doesn’t look much on the plate. I’ve tried every which way to try and make stroganoff look good in my photos but so far that perfect picture has eluded me. Maybe I just need to face facts – stroganoff ain’t pretty. Don’t judge it too harsely though, not every meal will look like the Kate Moss equivalent of dinners. Remember true beauty is on the inside so dive on into this creamy, leeky, porky delight.

Ingredients:

2 pork chops

2 leeks

1 small tub of creme fraiche/sour cream or fromage blanc

1 heaped tsp wholegrain mustard

1 heaped tsp dijon

1 tsp english mustard or equivalent

1 cup brown rice

Measure out 1 cup brown rice and empty into pot or ricecooker. The method is the same for both but the ricecooker just makes it that little bit easier because you can switch it on and leave it. Two parts water to one part rice. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a gentle simmer with lid on. Cook for around 20mins until all the liquid is gone – no need to drain. Fluff with a fork. Now in the time the rice is cooking you can have the rest of the meal prepared.

Finely slice the leeks – and I mean as finely as you possibly can without taking the skin off your fingers:) Heat a tablespoon of oil and the same of butter in a frying pan/skillet. Remember to rinse the leeks before adding them to the pan. Cook gently for around 10mins until they are soft but in no way coloured. If they are beginning to colour add more oil or butter and turn the heat down. Generously season.

Slice the pork into thin strips. Also make sure they aren’t too long as this can become problematic when eating.

Transfer the cooked leeks to a bowl. There should be enough oil left in the pan for the pork but if you’re worried you can add a touch more – but not too much mind! Turn the heat up on the pan, add pork  and stirfry quickly. You want it to colour on the outside but not competely cooked through – the strips should be tender not tough as old boots. I know people worry about pork being undercooked but trust me it’ll be fine.

In a bowl empty the contents of the creme fraiche or whatever you choose to use. Stir in the different mustards and mix thoroughly.

Return the leeks to the pan and stir in the creme fraiche. Bring to an ever so gentle simmer and remember to taste and season.

By this time your rice should be cooked and all you have to do is serve up. I recommend bowls as it adds to the comfort food vibe we’re going for here:)

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White Bread

When exactly did bread get so expensive? I mean seriously – one of the most basic of foods and you have to pay tooth and nail for a decent loaf. What erks me more is that when you look at the ingredients it has more additives than a packet of skittles. I could rant on for an age about the state of our food industry; and by ‘our’ I mean global not national. We’ve gotten ourselves into such a mess that we even have to sweeten and bleach our daily bread to make it more pleasing to the eye and more palatable to our now completely distorted taste buds. It is time to get back to basics and what better place to start than with bread.

Every country has its own equivalent. The French have their baguette, the Mexican’s have their tortilla and those from my part of the world have their loaf. Of course you can get all sorts of loaves now. Wholegrain, multiseed, half and half (this one kills me!) but when I think about my childhood in Ireland I remember a dense slice of white – a ‘Pan’ if you will. Yes, even in Ireland we have dozens of different types of bread that may be more readily associated with the Green Isle, for example: soda bread (no-one makes it better than your Granny and my Granny happens to make a pretty mean one), potato bread (to accompany that Ulster Fry you enjoy so much at the weekend) but on a regular weekday it’s all about that white slice smothered (and if you’re Irish you’ll know what I mean) in real butter (another travesty that has gone the way of folklore because some people think margarine is healthier!).

No longer will I stand to consume bread that has as much nutritional value as a Big Mac. Look, I was terrified, no, make that petrified the first time I embarked on my first bread dough. How could I make bread as perfect as a baker who has years of training and experience? But when I tapped the bottom of that loaf and heard that hollow sound, it was as if angels were singing in my ears “Halleluia”! Once you wrap your lips around that first bite of densely complex comfort food, you’ll never want to go back to the synthetic tosh masquerading as wholesome goodness sitting on the supermarket shelf. This recipe is too easy to ignore  – none of that usual faffing you have with bread dough. No fussing about with yeast. It’s as simple as bunging it a bowl, resting it for a little while (you could unload the dishwasher and sweep the floor in the time) and popping it in the oven for mere minutes. Easy as 1, 2, 3… or is it a, b, c? No excuses now, off you go, your kitchen beckons!

Ingredients:

675g (1 1/2 lb) strong white flour (pref. organic and unbleached)

2 tsps salt

1 sachet dried yeast

2 tbsp oil (I used canola) or 25g (1oz) butter (softened)

450ml (15 fl oz) hand-hot water

flour (for dusting) or beaten egg (to glaze)

In a large bowl mix the flour, salt and yeast. Measure the water into a measuring jug and add oil – if you are using butter rub it into the flour.

Pour half the liquid into the bowl and mix quickly to form a ball. Add the rest of the water gradually. Once you’ve formed a rough ball stop adding the water. If it becomes too wet add more flour although it should be a little sticky. Flour a surface and turn out the dough.

Knead the dough for around 5mins until it is smooth, elastic and no longer sticky.

Grease a 1kg (2lb) loaf tin – a standard size one basically. Press out the dough to the length of the tin and then stretch it to three times the width – it should be pretty malleable. Fold the long sides to the middle, turn over so the join is underneath and drop into the loaf tin. You can tuck the dough in if it doesn’t go in perfectly. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for an hour until doubled in size. You know it’s ready when the dough springs back to the touch.

Pre-heat oven to 220 degrees celsius/ 425 degrees farhenheit/Gas mark 7. Dust the loaf with flour for a soft crust or brush with a beaten egg for a shiny one.

Bake for 30-35mins until golden. Turn out the loaf when warm – it should sound hollow when tapped. If it doesn’t return it to the oven, out of its tin, for a few minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

This recipe is adapted from the 2002 edition of Food and Drink.

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Pesto Breadcrumbed Cod

I’m back! Boy have I missed writing my little blog though and, of course, my kitchen. Many people love eating out when they’re away on holiday but not me. I prefer to cook at least some of my meals and that’s why self-catering suits me best. Not only does it cut those food costs but it goes some way to preventing overeating or indulging too much. However, nobody’s perfect and I think we all feel that post holiday bulge and so with that in mind this recipe is on the healthy side but also packed full of ridiculous flavour.

I don’t know about you but I get seriously tired of eating the same sort of salads – sometimes it feels like I’m in a leafy rut, which is why the orzo salad that accompanies this cod is wonderful. All bases are covered with this one and you really won’t feel like you are denying yourself, which is always important when you’re feeding a hungry man, right?

The cod is baked too, so don’t feel bad that there’s pesto and breadcrumbs on top. It’s such a small amount anyway – we’re wanting to enhance the cod not completely camouflage it. Let’s be honest, cod needs help in the flavour stakes because it can tend to be pretty bland and whilst I love to wrap it in bacon or pancetta I’m desperately trying to cut down on my meat intake.

This dish is a pescaterians dream and is a delight to make. Lots of small components that make one big taste. Healthy eating doesn’t need to be dull. True story.

Ingredients:

2 cod fillets

2 tsp pesto

2 tbsp breadcrumbs

Orzo salad:

200g orzo pasta

1 pepper (yellow or orange)

3/4 spring onions (scallions, green onions)

2 carrots

1 cup frozen sweetcorn

Salad dressing:

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

juice half lemon

2 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

Cut pepper into quarters and place on a baking sheet. Place under grill/broiler until skins are blackened. Cover with foil, cling film or a plastic bag (reverse it first though) and wait until they are cool enough to handle. Peel off the skin and chop into thick chunks.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees farhenheit. Lightly season the cod. Smear a teaspoon of pesto on each fillet and top with a tablespoon of breadcrumbs. You can, of course, buy the breadcrumbs but I like to blitz mine in my little handblender – I use wholewheat bread. Bake in oven for 20-25mins until breadcrumbs are crunchy and golden.

Bring a medium pan of water to the boil. Salt and add orzo pasta. Cook for up to 6mins. Drain and rinse under cold water immediately. Finely chop scallions. grate carrots – I like to squeeze out excess juice before adding to the pasta. Pour boiling water over the frozen sweetcorn and let soak for 5mins before draining.

For the dressing use an empty jar. Teaspoon of dijon first. Seasoning, white wine vinegar, lemon juice and oil. Remember to put to lid on before shaking;)

In a large bowl combine the orzo, spring onions, carrots, sweetcorn and dressing. Some fresh basil leaves would also be a nice addition. I have a basil plant on my kitchen window sill but I keep forgetting to use the damn thing, grrrr! Taste it now because you might want to season the salad a little more.

It’s time to serve up! I like to pile up the salad and place the cod fillet on top. There’ll be some excess juice in the pan you cooked the fish in and I like to spoon this over the dish – waste not, want not:)

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Baked Ziti

Hello from Orlando!

Apologies one and all for I am terribly, terribly disorganised. I had planned to have some back-up posts already written for when I’m away in the World of Disney, but….. clearly I’m rubbish and that never actually happened. So, here I am sitting in our villa on a rainy but humid day in Florida writing up a recipe I made the day before we left for our little adventure with eight of our great friends.

This holiday has been a real test actually for my new approach to eating, which, if you recall, I briefly touched upon in my previous post on Raw Oatmeal. Rather amazingly, I managed to pick up a fantastic book at the airport that has just helped to reinforce everything I have been thinking of late. I’d only read the first few pages of In Defence of Food when I came across the wonderful mantra that seems to permeate the philopsophy behind the words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants. Yes, yes and yes!

You may find it slightly odd then that this dish contains very little in the way of plants. However!! It it meatless. Tick. It has tomatoes. Tick. It tastes delicious. Big Tick!

Ingredients:

1 large ball of mozzarella

1 large tub of ricotta

handful grated cheddar

1 can chopped tomatoes

250g penne

tbsp oregano

1 heaped tablespoon sugar

salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees farheneheit.

Blitz tomatoes until completely smooth. Add to a frying pan along with oregano, sugar and seasoning. Bring sauce to a gentle simmer and cook for around 20mins.

Bring a large pan of water to boil. Salt generously and add pasta. Ensure to undercook it – around 8mins – as it will cook further in the oven.

Chop or tear the mozzarella into small pieces. In a bowl mix the ricotta and mozzarella until it is relatively spreadable. Season.

Drain the pasta. Empty half into a casserole dish. Halve the cheese mixture and spread on top (as best as you can – I use the back of a spoon). Pour on half of the tomato sauce and spread evenly. Repeat process and grate cheddar (or any good melting cheese) on top.

Pop in oven and cook for 30-40 mins.

Om, nom, nom:)

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Raw Flaxseed Oatmeal

Okay, this is a quick one. As a result of my increased afforts to ‘go green’ I’ve become aware of many amazing raw and vegan recipes. Sounds a bit hippy dippy, right? Well, perhaps in some ways it is but I can assure you I’m not away with the faeries nor am I going to renounce my meat eating ways. My husband and I have always been concerned about where our food comes from and what’s in it but recently we’ve taken it to the next level. Being conscious consumers is important now more than ever and whilst I’m not one to lecture I want to spread the word in some little way – so this blog seems like the perfect platform to do my bit.

Let’s not get into the ins and the outs of being an ethical, eco-friendly human being right now. I’d much rather talk about food (afterall, this is PeaSoup Eats!) and let you into a rather well kept secret – raw food can be tasty:) I’d always been dubious ever since a friend who’d been staying with us brought back a raw dessert that was vile beyond words; it was not a good introduction. Since then I’ve tasted a few more raw dishes that have surprised my palate and encouraged me to look further into this somewhat sidelined contemporary cuisine.

Take it from me this oatmeal will require you to view food from a slightly different angle but if my Husband can eat it, like it and want more then I am positive it could be a breakfast hit! It’s real soul food that will satisfy a 100 percent more than your usual toast or cereal. It nourishes from within, will set you up for a greener day and leave you positively Zen. Namaste.

Ingredients:

3 tbsp flaxseed meal

water, soy, rice or almond milk

1 banana

2 tbsp chopped raw pecans

maple syrup

Prepare the flaxseed meal the night before. In two separate bowls divide the flaxseed meal – 1 1/2 tbsp flaxseed meal in each. Cover with water or soy milk or whatever you’ve chosen to use. Give it a little stir and set in fridge overnight.

In a blender – I own one of those little ‘uns that have all the different attachments – empty contents of soaked flaxseed meal. You might need to give it a little stir beforehand and it’ll probably have a sticky consistency. Put half the banana into the blender along with a small amount (tsp) of maple syrup – it really depends how sweet you want it but the flaxseed meal and banana are pretty sweet anyway. Blend until completely smooth. If it is very thick you can add a small amount of water/soy milk but be careful, a little goes a long way and you don’t want this runny.

Repeat the process with the other half of the ingredients. You could do it in one batch obviously but I find it easier doing it this way. Chop a handful of raw pecans and divide between the bowls. My husband likes a little more maple syrup on top but I prefer to have it without. You could use honey too although I’ve discovered true raw foodists don’t use any concentrated sweeteners but hey, seeing as we’re just testing the waters here I think we can bend the rules a wee bit!

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Black Bean Bathed Enchilladas

I think I’ve gone a bit overboard on the photos for this one, so apologies in advance. Talking of photos I’m definitely gaining more confidence and have also got to grips (kind of) with the camera I’m using (it’s a Panasonic Lumix) but I guess with everything you sometimes hit a plateau. Mainly my problem is light or lack of it. Because I cook in the evening this is obviously a huge problem and I see a massive difference in my daylight pictures, which is so frustrating but totally unavoidable. I do what I can to sort out the night time shots by putting them through the very simple to use ‘Lightroom’ programme, which even a technophobe like me can understand. I am considering making a lightbox too but just haven’t got around to it yet – excuses, excuses! For me though, it is much more satisfying to get that perfect picture without the aid of computer software. Y’know? That elusive perfect photo which requires no tampering or adjusting, however unrealistic that may be – because let’s face it, all photographs are altered in some way in this day and age. I truly respect the art of photography and almost feel the influx of blogs, websites such as Flickr etc. diminish the work of true photographers. Of course, I am also a huge culprit but to be honest I enjoy it too much to stop. There are only certain things I like to capture, the main one being food; and I know I’m not alone here. This was posted today on Facebook:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/07/dining/07camera.html?no_interstitial

It seems funny to me that there is a whole community of people who love to takes pictures of food. I like it.

Back to the issue at hand – those Black Bean Bathed Enchilladas. It is a knockout of a dish. Even the the name makes me swoon. It’s sexy! Get ready to roll up your sleeves and get all mucked up to the eyeballs in black bean paste:) We have Rick Bayless to thank for this recipe and thank him we should for in this instance he really has outdone himself. The inclusion of fennel is a touch of genuis (and is also good for my Husbands circulation!) and even though I forgot to add the white onion I had specifically bought it didn’t matter one iota.

I was most pleased with my tomatillo salsa, which brought all the elements together to form one cohesive Mexican dish. Now, I was careful to only use 1/2 habanero but it was still a spicy little so and so nonetheless, so perhaps err on the side of caution with the chillis! I will also say that these are ridiculously filling and two is quite sufficient.

If you can’t get  hold of Mexican chorizo I would recommend minced pork with lots of paprika or a mix of minced pork and Spanish chorizo. Also, if you’re in the UK, where queso fresco isn’t widely available then any soft crumbling cheese would suffice, preferrably goats. As far as I’m concerned you should never be afraid to alter a recipe to suit, so there are no excuses not to try this more than run of the mill meals.

Ingredients:

1/2 fennel

200g chorizo

400g can black beans

60g queso fresco

For the salsa:

5 tomatillos

2 tbsp flat leaf parsley

3 spring onions

1/2 habanero

1/2 red chilli

salt and pepper

Drain and wash the beans. Blend until completely smooth and transfer to a small pan. Season and put on a very low heat – if they start to dry out add some water.

Blitz the fennel or dice as finely as possible. Heat oil in a frying pan. Add fennel and fry for several minutes.

Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 300 degrees fahrenheit. Halve the tomatillos, place in a shallow dish, oil and season. Bake in oven for around 20 minutes.

Add chorizo to pan with fennel and cook thoroughly.

When tomatillos are ready, take out of oven and blitz until almost smooth – some chunks are good. In a bowl mix the tomatillos, parsley, chillis, spring onions and seasoning. I put the bowl in the freezer (yes, the freezer!) until the enchilladas are ready. Or you could make it in advance.

Place tortilla on a plate and spoon some black bean sauce on top. You can use the back of the spoon to cover the tortilla or do what I do – use your hands:) Turn tortilla over and do the same on the other side. Ensure they are completely coated but try to leave a little sauce for the end.

In one quarter of the tortilla put the chorizo mix and crumble some queso fresco. Fold in half until you get a moon shape then fold the other half over so you end up with a triangle.

After you make two, spoon over the remainder of the black bean sauce and tomatillo salsa. Top with the rest of the meat (if you have any left), the queso fresco and sprinkle some parsley.

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Jambalaya

I’ve had terrible trouble sourcing chorizo here in the States. I excitedly thought I’d found it when I first arrived but when I got the confusingly similar sausage home I soon realised it was nothing like the chorizo I was familiar with. This stuff was the uncooked Mexican variety and it totally flummoxed me – well for a few minutes at least. Once I’d tried this wonderful meat though a world of possibilites opened up before me and I use it in so many dishes now.

Whilst I was thrilled at this new discovery it still didn’t solve my Spanish chorizo problem, so I’ve had to sideline a few dishes that I love to cook, which saddened me greatly. Jambalaya is once such dish but the other day I’d had enough. If I couldn’t have that smoky paprika infused cured pork then I’d just have to find a replacement. That replacement came in the form of streaky smoked bacon with an abundance of paprika sprinkled on top. My hopes were not high, I really thought the dish was going to be severely lacking in depth of taste and it was as much a shock to me as it was to my Husband when it turned out fantastically delicious…….we ate the lot in one sitting, which was no mean feat!

The brown rice made it easier to digest – I’ve pretty much sworn off white rice ever since my body made it clear it preferred whole grain. It might take longer to cook; and by longer I mean by at least forty minutes, so if you’re in a rush this is probably not the best recipe to embark upon.

By golly it is a fabulous dish though. I think my version hints more towards Creole than Cajun and it truly is a cacophony of flavours. Almost like a paella but in truth has more punch and I think I do prefer it to that very famous of Spanish rice dishes. It probably helps that I’m facinated by New Orleans and I can’t help but feel that I’m bringing a little bit of mardi gras to my kitchen anytime I cook it.

Ingredients:

1 onion

1/2 pepper pref. orange or red

3 rashers streaky smoked bacon

1 breast chicken diced

1 cup cooked shrimp

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup frozen sweetcorn

200g canned chopped or diced tomatoes

1 cup brown rice

3 cloves garlic

2 tbsp paprika

1 red chilli

chicken stock cube

handful of chopped flat leaf parsley

salt and pepper

Heat canola oil in a large frying pan (skillet). Finely dice onion, add to pan and fry for several minutes. Season, add minced garlic and 1 tbsp paprika. Add pepper and fry until it begins to soften.

Chop bacon into small pieces and add to pan. Fry until cooked but not crispy. Stir in diced chicken, the rest of the paprika and chopped chilli. Cook chicken thoroughly. Season.

Add rice and allow it to absorb some of the flavours from the pan. Pour in chopped tomatoes, add tbsp sugar and season. Allow to cook for several minutes.

Boil a kettle of water, pour into pan along with chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Keep topping up with water – like you would do with a risotto but it shouldn’t be as frequent. It should take around an hour for the rice to completely cook and absorb the liquid – less if it’s white rice.

Empty peas and sweetcorn into a bowl and cover with boiled water. Let sit for 5 minutes or so and then drain. When the rice is almost cooked add the veg and shrimp. Let them warm through for several minutes but try not to overcook. At the very end toss in the parsley and stir through.

Taste, season (if necessary) and serve.

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Sweetcorn Chowder

Why is it that all children seem to love sweetcorn? Do they just have an inherently sweet tooth from birth? Or maybe it’s their small stature and brightness that make them so appealing. Oh, and the fact they (and by they, I mean the kernels) taste absolutely delicious. I don’t remember having an issue with eating my vegetables as a child, I think I was a distinctly unfussy eater. Isn’t it telling though that I can vividly remember the times when we had sweetcorn for dinner?

I’ve brought this love of sweetcorn into adulthood with me. The first time I had real corn (not frozen or from a can) was when I was 21. I was visiting friends in New Jersey and they were serving sweetcorn for dinner one evening. I didn’t think anything of it – I really love sweetcorn after all. What they served me, however, was unlike any sweetcorn I had ever tasted. They had ‘grilled’ it on the barbeque and slathered it in butter and it was a showstopper! I mean mindblowingly, earth shatteringly good. They were a little surprised as I enthusiastically chowed down, making emphatic noises all the while. So, what did I learn? Nothing tastes quite as good as fresh corn on the cob.

But…….we live in a modern world, where convenience food is king and frozen veg is just a part of everyday life. I’m told (by the advertising companies!) that frozen veg is better than fresh anyway so I can have my (frozen) corn and eat it without the guilt and all the pleasure. I’ll keep telling myself this and maybe someday I’ll believe it! I’ve been making this recipe for years. Long before Nigella Express came out and popularised this wonderfully easy dish I had made it a staple in my own kitchen. So, even if you think you know this recipe, read on friends, read on:)

Ingredients:

484g frozen sweetcorn

1 onion

1 tsp ground cumin

1 chicken stock cube

water

1/2 cup milk

salt and pepper

Heat a tablespoon of canola oil in a saucepan. Finely dice the onion and add to the pan with some seasoning. Cover pan and sweat onion for several minutes before adding the cumin. Mix thoroughly and sweat for a few more minutes until the spice has infused.

Boil a kettle of water. Empty the entire contents of a medium bag of frozen sweetcorn into the pan. Mix thoroughly with the onion and cumin. Add water until it just covers the sweetcorn. Remember you can always add water or milk later but too much liquid at this stage and the texture could be ruined.

Add stock cube and allow to dissolve – I don’t like the crumbling kind but they’re fine for this purpose.

Cover pan and bring to a gentle simmer for around 10 minutes. Using a hand blender, blitz the sweetcorn. I do this this several times. You could put it in a blender but frankly this is just more washing up and I also feel the hand blender gives you more control over the consistency. The fewer ‘bits’ the better so keep going until it’s as smooth as you can possibly manage.

Add milk, season, stir and simmer for another 5 mins.

Serve with either chopped flat leaf parsley, some small shrimp, bacon bits or finely sliced spring onion.

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