Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year greetings to all our blogger friends :):)

Another fresh new year is here
Another year to live
To banish worry, doubt and fear,
To love and laugh and give

This bright new year has given me
To live each day with zest
To daily grow and try to be
My highest and my best

I have the opportunity
Once more to right some wrong,
To pray for peace, to plant a tree,
And sing more joyful songs


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pineapple Rava Kesari

When I think of a quick sweet dish, my first choice is the Rava kesari. Here, I have given you with a slight modification of the traditional kesari. I added  some chopped Pineapple to give it a different flavor. Hope you all like it. Enjoy the recipe.

Rava or Semolina - 1 cup
Pineapple - 1/2 cup chopped pieces
Sugar - 2 cups
Water - 3 cups
Ghee - 1/2 cup
Cashew nuts - 12
Orange food colour - a pinch
Raisins - 15
Cardamom - 4 pods powdered.

In a thick bottom pan, add a tablespoon of ghee and fry the split cashews and transfer to a small dish. Then, add one more tablespoon of ghee and roast the rava in medium flame, till it turns light brown in colour and keep it aside. Pour three cups of water in the same pan and add the food colour. Once the water has come to a boil, simmer the heat to the lowest. Then, add the roasted rava and the pineapple pieces slowly, stirring it continuously and avoid lumps. Close the pan with a lid  for two minutes and allow the rava and the pineapple to cook well in water.

Open the lid and check if it is cooked. Then, add sugar and keep stirring. When the sugar is absorbed well and the kesari becomes thick, add the remaining ghee, little at a time and keep stirring. Kesari is done when it leaves the pan. Garnish with Cashewnuts, raisins (I like to add it without frying in ghee) and cardamom powder.

An easy and tasty sweet to prepare within 15 minutes. The pineapple added to it gives out a special  and authentic taste.

'Dieters Law - The food that tastes best has the highest number of calories.'

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My friend Kamala

Acquaintance with Kamala is only two months old. I had been to my hometown for the preparation of an upcoming wedding in the family. Visiting my hometown after a span of six months required a lot of cleaning and setting up the house. Now, since there was a wedding coming up, this needed much more than the usual. Usually, I  get someone or the other to help me out. This time even after a couple of days of landing, there was no one in sight.   I tried all my resources but of no use.

Then there was the doorbell. When I opened, I saw a beautiful woman in her late twenties dressed in a synthetic sari with simple jewels in her ears and neck. There was this anklet full of gungroos which caught my attention. The look on my face posed enough questions which brought me answers from her. She is a part time maid who had heard from someone that I am in need of someone to help me out. When asked about the salary structure, she would not speak about it and left to my discretion to decide. She had already decided to work for me.

She had passed her tenth standard, married with two sons studying in local school. Her husband is related to her and working as a carpenter. She is the eldest of three daughters and very dear to her father. Her father was not happy that she started working as domestic help, but the financial condition in the house did not allow her to sit at home. She was already working in two houses and assured she would find time to squeeze to help me with the daily chores.

I started waiting for her everyday as she was very good in her work and apart from work, she used to give me ideas of re-arranging the house. She updated about the latest exhibition going on at halls near our house where I could find good decorative items for the home. Sometimes, she used to accompany me too. Also, she would not just finish the regular chores but would extend helping hand to mine too. Slowly, I started to realise that we have developed a beautiful relationship.

When talking about her family, she would always speak high of her husband and children. I was happy for her. 

The wedding day was nearing and she won the hearts of all the guests at home. I could see the gleam in her face when I introduced her as my friend who comes to help me. I bought her a nice sari for the wedding which she planned to wear it with matching bangles and jewels on the wedding day. I was amazed at her  enthusiasm.

She was a great support at the wedding and like a family member she was there always ready to lend a helping hand. The wedding day was finally over and within a couple of days, there was no one at home except Kamala and me. I had to again wind up the house and leave to my place of residence. Suddenly, I could no longer see the smile in her face. When enquired, she told she was feeling sad that I would be leaving.  Within a few days, she brought the house back to normalcy.

I was to leave the next morning. When she came on that day, she tried hard to avoid me. When asked numerous times, she finally told that her husband had not come for almost a week as they had a big fight over some petty issues. He was too drunk on that particular day and was difficult to control him.

The next morning, as I was getting ready to leave, I heard the doorbell and saw Kamala there. I understood that she had cried all night as her eyes were red and lacked sleep. She wanted to speak to me for sometime, she said. She spoke and spoke for half hour. Then, I knew that her life was not a bed of roses as I thought. She hid all her suffering with her ever beautiful smile and not let out her feelings or expected any sympathy. From her dialogue, I figured out that her husband was not going to return to her. I had already planned that during my next visit, would help her to set up a small simple business at home which would give her extra income and also boost up her spirits as I know that she would never take money from me even as loan.

I left India with a heavy heart and continue my prayers that Kamala becomes strong enough to face the long future in front of her but at the same time appreciating her self esteem and dignity of not disclosing her true life status or to take undue advantage of the situation. As I ponder, I look with pride at such people who still keep up the human relationship alive in this materialistic world.

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."  -  Ana├»s Nin

Friday, December 25, 2009


Rajma and chapathi is one of the loved weekend menus in my house. I have always wondered why choley (channa masala) was more popular as I found rajma to be tastier. Hope you enjoy this recipe passed on from my mom.

Rajma (Kidney Beans) - 1cup
Onion- 2 medium sized
Tomato- 1 medium sized
Ginger- 1/2 tsp
Garam Masala- 1/2 tsp
Oil- 2 tbsp
Salt to taste
Corriander to garnish

1. Soak the kidney beans overnight in water.
2. Pressure cook the beans with salt and water
3. Heat a 1tbsp oil in a pan
4. Cut the onions in big slices and lightly fry them in oil (this will remove the raw smell of onions).
5. Add the tomatoes and cook them. Leave this mixture to cool.
6. Grind the onions and tomatoes into a fine paste.
7. Heat 1tbsp oil in a pan and add ginger, the ground paste and garam masala into it. Keep the heat at medium low and let oil ooze out of the mixture.
8. Add the kidney beans and some more salt (if required).
9. Garnish with some finely chopped corriander leaves.
Bon Appetit!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Penne with Vodka sauce

This is the one of the most loved dinner at our place. When my cousins had come over during the Thanksgiving, I prepared this and it was an instant hit. Sharing this simple recipe with you.

Ingredients and Preparation of the Marinara sauce:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
4 to 6 basil leaves
2 dried bay leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional

In a large casserole pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add celery and carrot and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, and bay leaves and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and taste for seasoning. If sauce tastes too acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, to round out the flavor.

Pour half the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.

If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and then pour 1 to 2 cup portions into plastic freezer bags. Freeze for up to 6 months.

Ingredients and Preparation of Penne
1 pound Penne
1/2 quart Marinara sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream (at room temperature)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup Vodka

In a pot, boil Pasta with little salt. When it is al dente, strain the water and keep aside.

In a pan, pour Marinara sauce and stir the cream into the Tomato and add Vodka also to it. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is heated through. Stir in the Parmesan cheese until melted and well blended. Add ground pepper.

In a plate, put the pasta and top it with the sauce and ground pepper.

Your Penne with Vodka sauce is ready to devour. You can also make the same version without Vodka by omitting it and follow with the rest of the ingredients.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Spectacular spectacles

As I am in the habit of reading books and extensive browsing, my eyesight became a bit troubled and when visited the Opthalmologist, he recommended that I go for an eye test, maybe I needed glasses.

After an elaborate exchange of lens, I was told that I require glasses only to read.  After carefully choosing the frame ( got frameless and slim glasses which would fit in almost anything and everthing), I finally got my first glasses.  There were pre-advises from my family that I order for two sets, in case I lose one.  So, came home with brand new two sets of glasses. Once you know your power, these are readily available over the counter.  Started using one on regular basis, with the other pair safely kept.  If while reading, I need to go to kitchen or do some other work, I would simply remove the glasses and keep on the table and reuse again.    I never had the habit of keeping the glasses inside the case as it was in use continuously except for short breaks.

That was the D-day when I went to the kitchen for preparing food and was quite busy.  I was actually reading the newspaper before I went to the kitchen.  Once, my kitchen work was over,  began to look for my glasses. I went to the table and to my disbelief it was not there. Thought, I must have kept in the kitchen. Searched there too, but no use.  After a vigilant search for 10 minutes in all the possible places, I finally had to take help from my husband and daughters.  The moment I told that my glasses were missing, came advises from everyone.  'I know ma, this is going to happen one day', came my daughter.  'I was telling you to keep the glass in the case but you would not listen' came my husband. In fact, they wanted me to have a chain tied to the frame so that I can always hang it on my neck when not in use. I did not heed to this idea.  And the search continued. After half an hour of search, we came to a consensus that I would be using up my second set.

When I went to get my second pair, I could not find that too in the place where I thought I had kept.  There was this extensive cleaning last week, maybe it got displaced. As I had written earlier, the glass was as such rimless and it is too slim and not very legible.  When I did not return back, I could hear my family entering behind me and concluding that I lost my other pair too.  Then, there was this frantic search as they know I spend my leisure time either reading or in front of the computer.  My daughters suggested that I should begin chanting the slokas which I normally recite when I lose things genuinely.!!!!

When the search failed, I decided to go to the Optical shop and get a new pair on Monday. So, for the weekend, I was jobless, I felt quite upset about the fact.  Couln't even go shopping as I found difficult to read  the contents on the jar and  the price.  The whole weekend,  I was sulking and sighing not having anything much to do except watch television.

On Monday morning, I came home with two more sets and declared to everybody where I was keeping the second pair.  The very same day, I had to clean the top freezer and to my surprise found my lost pair of glasses there. Wondering how it would have gone inside the fridge of all the places. Might be that I had opened the freezer with my glasses and then kept on top of the fridge which would have fallen inside.  Then, came the other surprise too. My other lost pair too was found within a few days.  So, now I have four pairs kept in strategic locations in the house. I am light at heart, that I have the luxury of losing all three pairs and still have one left to survive. Hehehehehehehe

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Idli w/ Brinjal Gothsu

For the Idli
Idli rice - 3 cups
Urad Dal- 1 cup
Methi seeds- 1 tsp (key ingredient)
Salt- 1 and 1/2 tsp

1.) Soak the idli rice in water overnight and grind it into a fine batter
2.) Soak the Urad Dal and Methi Seeds in water and grind it into a fine batter
3.) Mix the two batters and add salt.
4.) Leave the batter to ferment for 12-14 hrs in warm temperature (keep it close to room heater in winter).
5.) Serve the idlis with sesame oil.

For the Brinjal Gothsu
Brinjal - 5 (small)
Onion - 1 (big)
Green chillies
Mustard seeds
Tamarind - 1 tbsp paste
Curry leaves - a sprig
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Asafoetida - a pinch
Wheat flour - 1 to 2 tbsp for thickening
Oil - 2 tbsp
Salt to taste

1.) Chop Brinjal and Onions into small cubes and keep aside.
2.) Mix the tamarind paste in little water and keep aside.
3.) Take oil in a heavy bottom pan and add mustard seeds.
4.) When it splutters, add curry leaves, green chillies,onions and brinjal.
5.) Put little salt and cover to cook.
6.) Once it is done, add the tamarind mixture, turmeric powder, Asafoetida and salt. Allow it to boil for 5 minutes.
7.) Blend the wheat flour in water without lumps and add to the tamarind mix.
8.) Keep stirring as it will start to thicken slowly. Add water if the consistency is too thick.

This dish goes very well with Idlis.

Bon Appetit!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Healthy Green gram sabzi with Ash Gourd (Pushinika/Winter Melon)

Green gram is a healthy diet be it sprout or simple dal or prepared as sabzi.  This is a quick-make sabzi as there is no need of hours of soaking.  It has a simple yet rich taste of its own which enhances the dish you make.  This recipe is prepared at home at least once a month as it is stored for a rainy day when either I am exhausted of vegetables or there is time constraint :):) 

Green gram (whole  Moong) - 1 cup
Ash gourd  (Pusinika)- 1 cup (cut into small cubes)
Onion - 1 big
Tomato - 1 big
Red chilly powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - a sprig
Coriander leaves - 2 tbsp finely chopped

Pressure cook the green gram with salt and keep it aside.  Cut the ash gourd into small cubes and cook  with salt and  1/4 tsp turmeric powder in minimum water.  Take oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds.  When it splutters, add curry leaves, turmeric powder and chilly powder in low flame. Within seconds of adding these, add onions and stir for few minutes till it becomes soft.  Now add the chopped tomatoes and keep stirring till oil leaves the pan. Slightly mash the cooked green gram and add it alongwith the  cooked ash gourd. Do not add water. Let it boil for at least 5 minutes. Check for salt. Add finely chopped coriander leaves.

Yummy, healthy green gram sabji is ready to be had with either rice or rotis.

'You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients. Julia Child'  -  US cook & cookbook author (1912 - 2004)

Friday, December 11, 2009

The 21st century INDIA

Inspired by the talk of Sashi Tharoor in the TED forum, these are my views on the subject.  There can be no denial that the growth of India is multi-fold in the past two decades, be it communication, science and technology or nuclear energy.

As rightly pointed out by Sashi Tharoor, communication and modernisation has stepped up a hundred-fold within the last two decades.  In the early 1980's , there was  the Trunk call which after hours of waiting would materialise but the conversation would be barely audible and would have to be restricted to a few minutes in lieu of the exhorbitant charges which follows.  Then, there was the lightning call which was the fastest and took half an hour for connection.  But, these are the days when distance does not interfere in your thoughts running wild.  When Sashi Tharoor was offered a tender coconut in one of the small district in Kerala, the time span was just a few minutes between the asking and the receiving.  His friend was able to connect to the person who plucks the coconut,  in a jiffy,  as that person was toddy picking, up on the coconut tree with pick-axe on one hand and mobile phone on the other !!!!!!

Gone are the days of long queues be it for buying rail or air tickets or making our bill payments  The online payment concept has made one's job easy.  One need not depend on  his foreign relative for a winter jacket, McVite Digestives, Toblerone, Pampers or Heinz baby food. Everything is readily available in almost all the major cities in India. It would be unfair if I do not mention the availability of the latest gadgets as and when launched in the international market. 

The image of India on the world scenario has had a total revamp.  Gone are the days of depicting India with fakirs on nail beds, ash covered sadhus, tigers and elephants, snake charmers etc etc.  Indians are now popular for their brains and new inventions.  India is the busiest buyers and sellers market and all multi-nationals are eyeing for the top spot.   We hear of foreign dignitaries visiting us on regular basis either to have trade relations or technology updations.

But, this spirit is dampened upon hearing the many scams going around in the political world now which hampers the growth of India to the mighty fold it is destined.  There are revelations about the lakhs of crores of Indian money stored in Swiss banks by our effluent politicians only to be idle till their great-great grandchildren are old enough to spend.  There should be awakening among  the masses to bring down such illegal weeds out of the system and make India the next super power.

Hope the common man wakes up and find a new wave of uncorrupt politicians who would make the dream of India becoming a powerful nation come true.

Jai Hind!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rava (Semolina) Upma

I was never a big fan of upma and almost dreaded the days mom used to make them. My dad (who is an amazing cook) made for me on his recent visit and it was the best I have ever had. He has a very unique and experimental style of cooking with increased focus on measurement. This is one recipe that I can completely vouch for, hope you like it!

Rava (Sooji): 1 cup
Onions: 2 medium size (key ingredient - chopped)
Carrot: 1 (chopped into small cubes)
Beans: 7-8 nos (chopped into small pieces)
Asafoetida: 1 pinch (key ingredient)
Turmeric: 1/2 tsp (key ingredient)
Mustard seeds: 1 tsp
Channa Dal: 1/2 tsp (optional)
Urad dal: 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves: 3-4 nos
Oil: 1tbsp
Ghee: 1tbsp
Water: 3 cups
Salt to taste

1. Take the pan and dry roast the rava (sooji) until it turns light pink in color. This is to prevent the upma from getting mushy.
2. Heat the oil in a pan, add mustard seeds, Urad dal and channa dal, asafoetida and curry leaves.
3. Cut the onions horizontally into half and finely cut it into thin slices. Add the onions to the oil and saute till it is cooked(we don't want it to turn brown)
4. Cut the carrots and beans into fine slices and add it to the pan and let the vegetables cook.
5. Add the water, salt and turmeric to the pan and bring it to a boil.
6. Add the rava(sooji) slowly while stirring the pan (this will prevent lumps).
7. Cover and cook in medium low for 3-5 min.
8. Add the ghee in the end for flavor.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Vada Pav

I had a couple of friends with their family visiting us last weekend, so had to think of the menu much ahead. I wanted to make something different but not time consuming. By public demand from my family, ended up preparing 'Vada Pav' which was an instant success. It was real fun having hot Vada pav on a cold evening. Sharing the recipe with you all to enjoy.

Boiled Potatoes - 4
Ginger garlic paste - 1/2 tsp
Ginger paste - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Green chillies(finely chopped) - 1/2 tsp
Cilantro(Finely chopped)
Green chilly paste
Samosa chutney
For the batter:
Besan (Gram flour) - 2 cups
Red chilly powder - 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp

Put 3 tsp of oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. When it splutters, add ginger garlic paste and ginger paste. Keep stirring till it is done and releases flavour. Add turmeric powder, chopped green chillies, chopped cilantro, mashed potatoes and salt. Mix well and keep aside. Once it is cooled, make into small balls and keep aside.

Mix the batter ingredients with water so that it forms a batter of considerable thick consistency so that the potato balls are coated thick.

Heat oil and keep dipping the potato balls in the thick batter and deep fry in medium heat till all the sides are done. Remove and keep it paper towel to take away the excess oil.

Butter the pav (bread) on both the sides generously and gently toast in a hot tava till it turns golden brown. Apply green chilly paste on one side of the pav and samosa chutney on the other side. The vada pav is complete when you place the vada in between the pav. Here is the yummy 'Vada pav' ready 'Garam garam'.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sun Lover

I came across a very interesting article on the effects of weather on the human psyche. As a matter of fact, I am the kind of person who associates myself with the sun. Being an early riser all my life, I used to wake up with the sun ray's glistening across my face.
This was until a few years back when I changed my location to a place where it snows six months a year. I wake up now to the annoying ringer tone of my cell phone alarm which I manage to switch off a couple of times before I finally wriggle out of my bedcovers and a couple of minutes more.... before I muster all my strength and drag myself from bed. The enthusiasm is just not there anymore. I don't want to be sounding pessimistic but its time I realize what I've turned into. They say its all in one's mind and well this is what my mind dishes out rite now. Oh well! I'll be fine, things will get better, the sun is going be out there , just a few days more. Been saying this for three months now.Sigh!
Finally, my prayer's seems answered. The sun had been out all day yesterday and with it my mood had hit an all time high. Getting back to my old "early riser" self was a welcome change for my family who had started to worry about the zombie I had turned into. I quickly planned out the list to-do in my mind. Hmm..lets see.....
  • Not wearing a snowcoat- check
  • A long walk in the sun - check
  • French vanilla ice cream with brownie and caramel, delish - check
  • Shopping in outlet - double check
  • Maybe a movie in the end too :)
The sun had completely changed me. As they say, you never realize the value of something until you can't have it anymore. As planned, I headed out to the mall for some much indulgent shopping. Then stepped into my favorite Coldstone Cremery for generous extra toppings (guilt-free) and completely relished the ice cream. I had headed back home for lunch. After lunch, I settled into a patio chair in my balcony with a book and a nice hot cup of masala chai. I could hear the birds chirps, the ducks quacking, the water fountain in the lake- heaven! And then I drifted..drifted...into a deep slumber....

It is 10am today and has been snowing ever since I woke up. I am back to my cellphone alarm, back to my snowcoat, back to my boots...blah..blah...blah...back to being the zombie....

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sambar (Kutti Vengayam)

This is a recipe which is very popular in our house. Amma used to prepare this every weekend. This is prepared with shallots and fresh murungukka. My favorite combination was with cabbage or potato curry. I made this dish last weekend with spinach (keerai masiyal) and cabbage/ carrot curry with javarsi vadam (sabudhana papad).

Shallots (small red onions/ kutti vengayam): 8-10
Toor dal: 1 cup
Tamarind: 2 tsp (soaked in 1 cup warm water for 10 min)
Sambar powder: 1 tsp (use MTR madras sambar powder in case you don't have homemade :)- recipe soon to follow)
Turmeric (3/4 tsp)
Asafoetida: 2 pinches
Sesame seed oil- 1 tbsp
Coriander leaves- a few leaf strands (nicely chopped)
Salt to taste

Mustard seed - 1 tsp
Sesame seed oil- 1 tsp
Curry Leaves- 3 to 4

1. Peel the shallots and cut each slice into half
2. Heat some sesame seed oil in the pan and add the asafoetida and the shallots. (You may skip this step, I usually do it to avoid the raw smell of onions)
3. Marginally cook the shallots (do not fry them)
4. Squeeze the tamarind juice and add it to the cooked shallots.
5. Add the sambar powder and turmeric and let the entire mixture boil in medium high for 15 min.
6. Boil the toor dal and add it to the mixture
7. Add salt to the sambar
8. For the tadka heat oil in a separate pan, add mustard seeds and let it splutter.
9. Add the curry leaves to the ooil and pour it over the sambar.
10. Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Stuffed Karela (Bitter gourd)

This recipe is developed and prepared by my husband.  Me and my daughters enjoy his cooking as he comes out with new ideas and innovative ingredients to the usual recipes too.  One of the innovative 'Stuffed Karela' recipe is given below.


Karela (Bitter gourd) -2  medium sized
Besan (Gram flour)  - 3 heaped tablespoons
Rice flour - 1 heaped tablespoon
Red chilly powder - 1/2 tsp
Pepper powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Asafoetida - a pinch
Jeera - 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Oil - 6 tbsp


In a pan, add 2 tbsp of oil, put mustard seeds, when it splutters add Jeera and Hing.  Switch off the heat and add besan, rice flour, pepper powder, turmeric powder,chilli powder, Asafoetida and salt (little extra for the karela too) and mix well in the residual heat.  Do not use water in the entire procedure.

Wash the Karela well and wipe it dry.  Slit it open into two lengthy halves.  Remove the pith and dry it with a paper towel.  Fill it with the above stuffing mixture and close the karela and tie it with a thread so that it does not fall apart and the stuffing is in tact while done.

Pour 4 tbsp oil in a flat bottom non stick pan and place the stuffed karelas on it. Keep turning the karelas on medium heat initially with lid on.  When it is free of moisture, remove the lid and keep turning till it is done.

Transfer and remove the threads and slice it into small pieces. This dish goes well with Rice items and Rotis.

'Hunger finds no fault with the cooking' - Anonymous

Celebrating Karthigai Deepam today

Best wishes to all Blogger friends on the occasion of Karthigai Deepam

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