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kale pancake

The blog is neglected, the house is neglected, the garden is neglected, but the kale keeps giving. Wonderfully prolific, resilient and long lived, my current favourite vegetable.

The Cavalo Nero I am harvesting now is last years. It survived through the summer – the cabbage moths attacked and most of the leaves along with the grubs went to the chooks – but it just kept producing more. It came into winter with plants a metre tall. It survived months with almost no rain. Our tanks got down to the minimum we save for firefighting with the prospect of an el Nino summer ahead and the leaves got a bit tough for salads or stir fries or chips but still fine for soups and stews.  The bower birds got hungry and got in and stripped the plants. Then last week we got some rain and the tender new leaves came on.

We’ve been eating it in some form or another several times a week – in soups and stews, in pakora and pesto, in kale rolls and lasagna, in stir fries and tempura, in saag and fu yung.  Half a dozen plants and several bunches of super vitamin packed greens every week for years.

These spicy kale pancakes are my current favourite breakfast.

The Recipe

Makes two  pancakes.

Mix together

  • half a cup of  wholemeal flour 
  • one egg
  • a desertspoon of fresh ginger grated
  • a desertspoon of fresh turmeric grated
  • a pinch of chili powder (more or less depending on how hot your chili is and how spicy your taste)
  • a teaspoon each of coriander and cummin powder (or substitute fresh coriander)
  • a pinch of cardamom powder
  • pinch salt

Add

  • a cup of shredded kale – leaves stripped off the central stem and chopped roughly but fairly fine,
  • a spring onion chopped fine, and
  • enough water to make a pancake-style batter.

Fry in oil in a heavy frypan, hot but not full-bore, for a couple of minutes on each side till golden.  Serve topped with cucumber raita and chutney, or you could go for plain yoghurt and (it sounds odd but it works) lime or cumquat marmalade.

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kale pesto

In the scale of foods that are Popeye worthy, kale is about as dense a source of vitamins and minerals and antioxidants as you can get, including Vitamin K which is important for bone density and for brain health, and Vitamin A which is important for skin and eyes. But more uniquely, it’s also a source of some important anti-cancer phytochemicals.

It’s also really easy to grow over winter and we eat lots of it,  in soups and stews, tempura and pakora,  pasta and noodle dishes, stuffed and baked and very lightly steamed.  But this is probably my best recipe for bulk kale in a dish you’re happy to eat regularly.

Spelt Fettucini

It really does only take minutes to handmake small quantities of pasta.  If I had to feed a large family, I might baulk at it, and no doubt it would be better pasta if I used all the Masterchef tricks of kneading and resting and laminating.  But if I am thinking about a quick easy dinner for just us, quick easy handmade pasta is a hundred times better than bought pasta, even if it wouldn’t impress Matt.

I get to use one of our proper free range real eggs, and just for a change I used wholemeal spelt flour for this one.

In the food processor, blend:

  • one large egg
  • ½ cup wholemeal spelt flour
  • a swig of olive oil
  • good pinch salt

Blend until it comes together into a soft dough.  It needs to be not sticky but soft.

Flour the workbench and knead very briefly, kneading in enough more flour to make a smooth, non-sticky dough. It will look like quite a small dough ball, but a little bit goes a long way.  Let it rest for a few minutes, covered with a wet bowl or cup, while you make the pesto and boil the water, then roll it out and cut into noodles.

Kale Pesto

Dry roast ½ cup roughly chopped macadamia kernels by cooking them, stirring constantly, in a heavy fry pan for just a couple of minutes till they get a touch of brown.  Be careful not to burn them. Dry roasting makes a huge difference.

You can wipe out the food processor if you like, but you don’t need to wash it.  Blend together, scraping down the sides with a spatula a couple of times:

  •  ½ cup dry roasted macadamia kernels
  • 40 gm parmesan cheese
  • clove of garlic
  • pinch salt
  • 8 cavolo nero kale leaves stripped from their central vein
  • enough olive oil to make a pesto texture

At the very end, add two pieces (about 20 grams) preserved lemon, and just pulse it in to chop it fine rather than blend it in. (Alternatively, you can just chop it fine and stir it in).  If you don’t have any preserved lemon, you can substitute juice of ¼ fresh lemon, but the preserved lemon really works.

Cooking and Assembling:

The pasta dough has been resting while you make the pesto, so the next step is to roll it out.  You will find that if you flour the benchtop and keep flipping it, you can roll the dough out very fine without it sticking.  The finer the better.  If you go to the effort of rolling it out, then folding it into a block and rolling it out again, you get a denser, more al dente pasta.  But if you are going for quick and easy, rolling it out once is fine.

Sprinkle flour over the top of the rolled out dough, then roll it into a log.  Using a sharp knife, cut into noodles. You will find that if you have floured between the layers well enough, the noodles will separate nicely.

Cook the noodles in a pot of boiling water for about 2 to 3 minutes till they rise to the top.   Drain in a colander then return to the pot and stir through as much of the pesto as you like, more or less as you like it. ( The left over pesto will keep in the fridge for a week, and is wonderful on sandwiches or under a poached egg.) Serve hot with a grating of parmesan on top.

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My kale is starting to flower, so it was time to finish it off. This hot weather will bring cabbage moths and aphids around anyhow. It has been really hardy and trouble free, and has borne really well for months now. I’ve used it regularly at least a couple of times a week – such a lot of food from such a small area.  It works well in soups and stews,  pasta and noodle dishes, stuffed and baked and very lightly steamed.  And it’s given me a big dose of a huge range of vitamins and minerals and some important anti-cancer phytochemicals all winter.  I’m sad to see it go!

But the chooks will love the stalks and older leaves, and I’ve picked all the younger, nicer leaves for this  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge. On hot evenings like we have been having lately, a platter of finger food and a cold beer on the verandah is the perfect dinner.

The Recipe:

This recipe made plenty for two of us for dinner. It isn’t exactly diet food, but the kale doesn’t absorb as much oil as you might think, and with dipping sauce and accompaniments it’s not too high fat. We like the batter with a bit of spiciness, but you can reduce the ginger, turmeric and chili if you want a milder version.

Make the batter first so it gets 10 minutes or so to sit, then the dipping sauce so it gets a few minutes for the flavours to meld.  Then last of all, mix in the kale and fry the pakora.

The Batter

Use a whisk or a fork to mix together to a smooth batter like a pancake batter:

  • 1 cup besan (bean flour – from any wholefoods store)
  • two-thirds of a cup water
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • pinch of chili powder or dried chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon grated turmeric (or ½ teaspoon dried)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped coriander, stems and leaves, and if you have them roots as well
  • pinch salt

Let the batter sit, and go on to make the dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce

Use a food processor or blender to blend together

  • ¾ cup plain yoghurt
  • big handful of coriander leaves
  • big handful of mint leaves
  • pinch salt

Let the dipping sauce sit for the flavours to meld and go on to make the pakora.

Pakora

Heat up a pan with about half an inch (1.5 cm) of oil. You want it medium hot.  I use either avocado oil or light olive oil for frying like this, because they have fairly high smoke points.  Light olive oil is light flavoured, not light fat, and it’s light flavoured because it’s highly refined to remove the aromatics.  But it makes it better for frying because it means it heats to a much higher temperature without producing any unhealthy by-products.  Avocado oil has a very high smoke point, and it’s locally grown in my region, but it is a bit expensive.

Stir into the batter

  • 1½ cups (packed) of kale shredded into 3cm or so pieces.
  • 1 small onion finely diced

Stir so that all the kale is well coated in batter.

Drop dessertspoons full of batter coated kale into the hot oil.  Fry for around 3 minutes each side until they are crisp and golden.  Drain on brown paper.

I serve on a platter as finger food for sharing,  with the dipping sauce and some raw vegetables (cherry tomatoes, snow peas, celery) to dip too.

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Which is a two part dish, consisting of an Asian style omelette in a mildly ginger laced vegetable stock sauce.  It’s surprisingly addictive! I used duck eggs for this one, just because we have them, but chook eggs work just as well.

We are just a few days away now from the Spring equinox, one of the two points in the year when the days and the nights are equal length.  Once upon a time in ancient Europe people used to gather to celebrate the spring equinox. The hibernating animals emerged from their winter burrows to breed, along with a certain mythical rabbit. The flush of spring laying provided eggs in such abundance they could be blown and painted just for the fun and beauty of it.  People marked the balance point between the lengthening days and the shortening nights, and celebrated the eternal cycle of winter death and spring resurrection.

We have “enough” eggs year round – just a few weeks when the chooks are moulting when they are actually scarce, which ironically is around the autumn equinox in the southern hemisphere.  But in spring even the geriatrics lay for a while and we have so many eggs that it is very easy to see how painted eggs became a spring equinox tradition.  Our son visited on the weekend and we fed him and his friends eggs for breakfast and sent him home with a dozen duck eggs.  My partner has the kind of liver that doesn’t produce cholesterol, so he’s eating a couple of poached eggs for breakfast every day. And any respectable  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge has to include eggs.

 The Recipe:

Get everything chopped and ready before you start, because it goes together fast.

The Omelette:

  • Beat 3 duck eggs or 4 large chook eggs with an eggbeater or fork until they are frothy.
  • Add a teaspoon of grated ginger, a pinch of salt, and a dessertspoon of wine vinegar, saké or sherry.
  • Cook in an oiled frypan over a low heat, lid on, till set.  Loosen the edges and turn the omelette over for just a minute, then tip it out onto a board.
  • Slice into strips, ready to add to the sauce.

The Sauce

Prepare all the vegetables before you start cooking.

  • Grate another teaspoon of ginger.
  • Julienne an onion (chop it in half, then finely lengthways) and a carrot.
  • Dice another couple of cupfuls of vegetables – celery, snow peas, peas, mushrooms, kale, silver beet, broccolini, asparagus, chinese cabbage – you want those kind of Asian stir-fry vegetables, but there are lots of choices possible.
  • Mix 1½ cups of stock with 2 dessertspoons of soy sauce, a teaspoon of honey and another dessertspoon of vinegar, saké or sherry.
  • Mix 3 teaspoons of cornflour (cornstarch in USA) in a little water.

When they are all ready, heat up a wok or a large pan with a little oil till it is hot.  Add the onions first, stir for a minute, add the carrots, stir for another minute, then add the ginger and the other vegetables and stir fry for two or three minutes.

Then add the stock and braise the vegetables in it for just a couple of minutes.  You want the vegetables to be tender but still have some crunch to them.

Add the cornflour and stir through.  The sauce should thicken immediately.

Take it off the heat, add the strips of omelette, and gently ladle into bowls.  Serve with extra soy sauce on the side for salt lovers.
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This is a bit of a  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge rules cheat.  Now the days have started really lengthening, even the geriatric chooks are laying so handmade pasta with real eggs was in my mind. And then I was looking for a cake tin deep in the back of the shelf and came across a fluted flan tin that I forgot I had.  And in a moment of inspiration realised it would work to cut pasta.  So I decided to try hand making farfalle.

The next decision was primavera with the lovely sweet baby spring vegetables, or carbonara which would use up another egg, so I compromised by combining both. The whole meal didn’t take much over the half hour of the rules, and it was quite simple and easy, but if I were making it for more than two and trying to get it done in the half hour, I think I’d go for a simpler pasta shape.

The Recipe:

Makes two adult sized serves.

The Pasta

In a food processor, blend for just a minute till it comes together into a dough:

  • ½ cup baker’s flour  (I use the same Laucke Wallaby Unbleached Bakers Flour that I use for my sourdough, but any high gluten flour will work)
  • a large egg,
  • a spoonful of olive oil,
  • a good pinch of salt.

Flour the workbench and knead very briefly, kneading in enough more flour to make a smooth, non-sticky dough. It will look like quite a small dough ball, but a little bit goes a long way.

With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out very thin.  (If you flip it several times while rolling, you’ll find you can easily get it very thin without sticking. The thinner the better.)

I put it onto a chopping board to cut, but that will depend on your bench hardiness. You can then cut it into any shape you like. To make farfalle, I used the fluted edge of the flan tin to cut the pasta into strips about 2.5 cm thick, then into 5 cm lengths.  You can fold and stack the pasta and cut 5 or 6 layers at once to make it a bit faster.  I then just squeezed the centre of each little piece of pasta to make the bow shape.  This is the bit that takes time. Kids may enjoy helping.

Put a pot of water on to boil and leave the pasta spread out to dry a little while you make the sauces.

The Carbonara:

You don’t need to wash the food processor.

Blend together:

  • egg
  • 80 grams of low fat feta
  • 2 big dessertspoons of low fat cottage cheese

The Primavera:

They are all fresh vegetables that take no time to cook, so this will come together in 5 minutes;

In a heavy frypan, with a little olive oil, add (in more or less this order, giving it a stir with each addition)

  • a small leek, finely chopped
  • a handful of  single shelled broad beans
  • 4 or 5 leaves of kale or silver beet, or a couple of each (just the greens, not the stems)
  • a big handful of shelled fresh peas
  • a big handful of snow peas, chopped into bites
  • a dozen or so olives, roughly chopped
  • half a dozen spears of fresh asparagus, any woody bits removed and roughly chopped
  • juice of half a lemon
  • a heaped dessertspoon of chopped fresh mint. (The fresh mint really changes it – it’s not essential  but really worth adding)
Take the pan off the heat and put a lid on it to conserve the heat.

Assembling:

  • Cook the pasta in the pot of boiling water until it rises to the surface, which will be in about 2 minutes.
  • Reserve a little of the cooking water and drain the pasta, then return it to the hot pot.
  • Blend a little of the cooking water in with the carbonara sauce to make a cream consistency, then gently toss it through the pasta in the hot pot. Put the lid on and leave for a minute for the egg to just coddle a little and thicken the sauce.
  • Add the vegetables, toss through and serve, with a grating of parmesan and black pepper on top.

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End of winter, it’s been a hard few months, and I don’t often get sick, but I feel like I might.  Phó is my go-to dinner when I feel like I need to ward off I-don’t-know-what.  This isn’t a real Phó, but it’s got that ginger/garlic/chili/anise/cinnamon/lemon grass spice profile that my immune system seems to crave.  And it uses lots of Chinese cabbage and kale, that I have in bulk even in my very neglected garden.  And egg noodles – the chooks are already in spring mode and laying (the ducks and geese too).  This comes together in the half hour of the  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge rules, even including noodles from scratch.

The Recipe:

For two big dinner sized bowls.

Put a big pot or a pressure cooker on to boil with 5 cups of vegie stock.  While it is coming to the boil, make the egg noodle dough.

1. The Egg Noodle Dough:

Egg noodles are just pasta.  The story is that Marco Polo brought them back to Italy where they became spaghetti.  Easy to make, and so easy to make a small quantity that I don’t even bother to pull out the pasta maker.

In a food processor, blend for just a minute till it comes together into a dough:

  • ½ cup baker’s flour (high gluten flour) You can use wholemeal flour if you like.
  • an egg,
  • a spoonful of light flavoured oil like grapeseed oil,
  • a good pinch of salt.

Knead for just a minute to make a dough ball, then let it rest while you make the soup stock. To stop it drying out, I cover the dough ball with a wet cup upside down over it.

2. The Stock:

You’re going to strain it, so nothing needs to be elegantly chopped. Into the boiling stock add:

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • a good thumb sized knob of fresh ginger, finely sliced
  • a thumb of galangal (if you have it), finely sliced
  • a stalk of lemon grass, chopped,
  • a chili, sliced
  • one inch of cinnamon stick
  • one clove of star anise
  • one or two bay leaves
  • the leaves from a couple of stalks of celery
  • the greens from a spring onion

Simmer for around 20 minutes, or pressure cook for about 7 minutes.  Then strain the stock, pressing down with a potato masher to get all the juice out.  Return it to the pot and bring it back up to the boil.

3: The Noodles:

While the stock is cooking, roll out the noodle dough.  If you flour the bench top well, and keep flipping it, you should be able to get it very thin.  Flour the sheet of dough and fold it over a few times, then, using a sharp knife, cut it into noodles.

Tease the noodles to separate them.

3. The Soup

By now the stock should be ready to strain and bring back to the boil. Add to it:

  • one spring onion whites, very finely sliced
  • 2 stalks of celery, very finely sliced
  • 1 (packed) cup of Chinese cabbage, very finely sliced
  • 1 (packed) cup  of cavolo nero kale, very finely sliced
  • 2 cups of mushrooms, finely sliced.

Simmer for another 5 minutes, or pressure cook for a couple of minutes, then add the noodles and simmer for just a couple of minutes more.

Taste and add soy sauce and/or lime juice to taste (or just allow people to add their own).

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This is probably a contradiction in terms.  Ribbolita is at its best the next day.  But it is such a good winter warmer, such a hearty, filling, healthy, cheap mid-winter vego meal, that I needed to rise to the challenge of making it make-able mid-week.

There is one cheat in it, and you need a pressure cooker for the cheat. I use dried beans, not canned beans, so they have to be pre-soaked. My homegrown Blue Lake substitute well for the cannellini beans that are traditional in this recipe, and if I remember to put them in water to soak before I leave in the morning, the rest comes together in half an hour, including vegetable stock from scratch.  If you use cooked beans and pre-made stock, it can be made in minutes.

The recipe is versatile – there’s lots of varieties and substitutions you could make.  The essence is a winter vegetable and bean soup thickened with sourdough bread.

The Recipe:

Makes about 4 good sized serves.  The leftovers are even better the next day.

Soak half a cup of cannellini beans (or substitute another bean) in water for the day.

The Stock

In a pressure cooker over a high heat, fry in a little olive oil:

  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • a cup of diced pumpkin

As soon as they start to get a little colour, add

  • the stems from a bunch of parsley, chopped
  • the leaves from about 6 small stems of celery, chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • a good pinch of salt
  • grinding of black pepper
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 5 cups of water

Drain the beans and put them in the little colander that goes in the pressure cooker.  If you put that in the pressure cooker, the beans should be submerged in the stock. They can cook along with the stock but be separated easily at the end.

Put the lid on and pressure cook for 8 to 15 minutes till the beans are soft.  My homegrown Blue Lakes cook in just 8 minutes, but the older and harder your beans are, the longer they will take.

The Soup:

While the stock and beans are cooking, in another pot, fry in a little olive oil:

  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 6 stems of celery, finely diced
  • 6 leaves of cavolo nero kale

As soon as they get a bit of colour, add a cup of water and simmer gently while the stock and beans are cooking.

Assembling:

Carefully take the little colander of beans out of the pressure cooker.  Check they are cooked and add to the soup. Strain the rest of the stock, pressing down with a potato masher to squeeze out the juices.  Discard the vegetables. (I know, it seems like a waste, but they were mostly trimmings anyway and everything except the fibre is now in the stock, and this soup has plenty of fibre.)

Now you have a choice.  You can just tear three thick slices of sourdough bread – about 2 cups worth of  bread – into little bits and put them in the bottom of the bowls, for serving the soup over, or you can blend the bread into the stock.  I like the latter, but I like thick creamy soups.

So my method is to pour the stock into a blender or food processor with the bread.  Blend till smooth and pour into the soup. Stir in a handful of chopped parsley.

You should have a very thick hearty vegetable and bean soup.  Heat it all back up, stirring as it will stick and burn on the bottom easily after the bread has been added.

Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. I like to add a couple of teaspoons of soy sauce just to give it a bit more depth.

Serve with a good grating of parmesan on top.

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If you don’t have kale, I think the filling in this recipe will work just as well with cabbage if you  reduce the water and the cooking time a little.

But if you don’t have kale you’re missing out!  It’s a real super-food, with a big range of vitamins and minerals and some important anti-cancer phytochemicals.  And it’s also really delicious, especially cooked long and slow as in this recipe. I have so much cavolo nero kale in the garden at the moment, just half a dozen plants yielding more than we can eat or foist on visitors, but I keep expecting the white cabbage moths to arrive soon and end the bounty.  So I’m making the most of it.

Kangaroo is my red meat of choice, for a whole heap of reasons. – ethical, ecological, nutritional, and not least economic. This recipe made a big platter of rolls, enough for dinner and lunches, or a platter of party finger food.

The Recipe:

Cut the top two-thirds off  30 large cavolo nero kale leaves.

You will use six of the bottom thirds (where the central vein is thickest) to line your cooking pot.  Put the rest of the bottom thirds aside to use for another recipe (or, if you have garden bounty, feed them to the chooks who will think it is Christmas and give you super high vitamin A eggs in return).

Blanch the leaves in boiling water for a few minutes, just to soften them so that they roll easily.

While the kale is blanching, saute a large onion, finely diced, in olive oil.  Add 500 grams of kangaroo mince and brown.

Add:

  • a teaspoon of coriander powder
  • a teaspoon of cummin powder
  • half a teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 good dessertspoons of pine nuts
  • 3 good dessertspoons of currants
  • half a cup of rice (we have a local grower growing biodynamic rain-fed rice)
  • half a cup of finely chopped mint and /or parsley

Saute for a few minutes until the rice goes white and opaque.

Lay a kale leaf, top side of the leaf up and vein side down, with the leaf tip towards you. Place a dessertspoon of the mince mix near the tip and roll, folding the edges over to make a nice tight roll.

Line the bottom of a heavy pot with the 6 blanched kale bottoms.  Arrange the filled rolls on top of them in layers.

Mix together and pour over:

  • 100 ml lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 3 cups of water
  • swig of olive oil
  • salt and pepper.

Put a lid on the pot and simmer on a very very low heat for about two hours.  Towards the end, watch that they don’t boil dry.

They’re good hot but even better cold.

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We stopped in at a fish shop on the way home from visiting our daughter at the coast yesterday.  I had just bought a half kilo of squid, thinking calamari, when I noticed they had snapper frames at a ridiculously low price.

Snapper are listed as a sustainable catch, and I like the idea that, when you hunt an animal for food you really should eat all of it.  So I bought two head-and-backbone frames for next to nothing, and this is the result.  Of course then we had to invite people for dinner.  The recipe fed four of us, generously, served with crusty bread, and with the spring vegetables from the garden and the rich, smoky paprika flavoured fish stock it was very good.

The Recipe:

I don’t think my fish stock recipe is in the chef’s manual, but it works.  I just put the frames in my large pressure cooker, cover with water, and pressure cook over a very low flame for an hour.  Then I strain the stock, pressing down with a potato masher to get the last of the juice, and leaving the the heads and bones for the compost.

To 1 ½ litres fish stock (from 2 snapper frames), I added:

  • 2 onions, diced
  • 6 cloves of my new season fresh garlic roughly chopped
  • ½ cup shelled young broad beans
  • 5 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 jar of peeled tomatoes
  • 6 stalks of cavallo nero kale diced
  • 4 bay leaves
  • a heaped teaspoon of smoky paprika

I simmered this for 20 minutes or so, then added

  • 3 zucchini, diced
  • 6 small new season potatoes quartered
  • handful of dill, chopped
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and black pepper

I simmered this for another 10 minutes until the potato was tender, then added the half a kilogram of squid, cut into rings, brought it just up to the boil again, then turned it off.  By the time I had bowls organised, the squid was cooked.

Served with warm crusty bread.

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