The Crazy Kitchen: November 2013

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Saturday, 30 November 2013

Mrs Byatt's Christmas Day Muffins

When I started this blog nearly three years ago there was a lot of 'cooking with your toddler' going on. I no longer have a toddler and since Jack started school we don't have as much time for cooking together but try and squeeze as much as we can in. 

Last weekend the boys made bread, and this weekend, whilst the boys were at football, it was the turn of Hanna to do some baking. I was asked by Great British Chefs to try out their new Cooking with Kids app and make one of the recipes.

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I downloaded the app on my phone and after a lot of browsing through a lot of great recipes decided upon something seasonal, Mrs Byatt's Christmas Day Muffins, by chef Adam Byatt. The muffins are flavoured with Christmas spices and are packed full of juicy cranberries.

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The muffins were really easy and turned out really well, and older children could easily make them on their own.

The app also includes lots of handy hints videos such as melting chocolate, creaming butter and sugar and filling an icing bag.

You can find this and other great recipes on the Great British Chefs app or website.

I was compensated for my time trying out the app and recipe

Malteser Vodka

After I made my toffee and cherry vodka's I had a little vodka left in the bottle and carried out a little experiment. I added 2 treatsize bags of Maltesers to it, shook it up a little, warmed it up a little and savoured the result, which was amazing. I had created something that was not unlike Baileys, which was thick and creamy.

The following week I popped another bottle of vodka in with the weekly shop along with a couple of boxes of Maltesers and made a larger batch.

It's going to be perfect for Christmas, over ice or ice cream or in coffee.


Malteser Vodka


Malteser Vodka

Half a bottle of vodka (approx 350ml)
2 x 120g boxes of Maltesers (for those that don't know what Maltesers are
maltesers.com)

  • Put the Maltesers into an empty bottle that has been sterilised
  • Pour in the vodka
  • Place the lid on and shake vigorously 
  • Shake regularly over a couple of days until the Maltesers have dissolved - this procedure can be sped up by placing the bottle in a bowl of warm water

Friday, 29 November 2013

Castello Cheese Selection {review}

I've said it before that personally Christmas is about the 3 ch's - chocolate, champagne and cheese. The latter is one of the things I look forward to most about Christmas as I try to be healthy(ish) throughout the year and not eat too much cheese but at Christmas I like to push the boat out and live off cheese, crackers and chutney throughout the festive period.

Castello sent me a selection of their cheeses to get me in the Christmas spirit so our Christmas has started early this year. I even received my very own personalised stocking which I can't wait to hang up on the fireplace on Christmas Eve!

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The selection includes the following :

  • Creamy Blue
  • Traditional Danish Blue
  • Extra Creamy Danish Blue
  • Pineapple Halo
  • Creamy White
  • Tickler Cheddar

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I opened the Creamy Blue and Creamy White but unfortunately my cold has got the better of me & I was saddened that I couldn't taste anything, so I've put them aside again until next week when I will hopefully be able to taste the full flavours of these delicious looking cheeses.


I was sent a selection of cheeses for the purpose of this review

Family night with Pizza Express

We don't eat out very much as a family as it's usually so darn expensive, especially as we can no longer palm the eldest off with a kids meal as he eats twice as much as anybody else in the house and never stops growing!

When I was asked to carry out a review of Pizza Express it came at just the right time, and, after a busy week, we popped to our nearest branch in Stafford on Saturday afternoon. It also happened to be the day of the Santa parade and Christmas light switch on so the town was packed.

The Pizza Express restaurant occupies a lovely position on the Market Square in the centre of the town, right where all the action was going on. Mike the Knight was there, although Jack refused to have his photo taken with him.

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We reserved a table for 4pm in the hope that we would be finished ready for the light switch on at 5pm, and the restaurant was buzzing. It's had a makeover since I last visited and was so much nicer than the bright, cold place that it was previously. The bar area has been moved to the side of the tables and this, along with the low lighting, gave the place a lot more atmosphere.

I was asked to carry out a review of the 'new vegetarian menu' however I was informed that there was no 'vegetarian menu' but all the vegetarian dishes were marked with a V. This threw me a little and I'm not the quickest at choosing from a menu at the best of times so quickly opted for a vegetarian Pomodoro Pesto Leggera, topped with mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, pesto and garlic and served with a salad in the centre, all under 500 calories.

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Hanna picked a pasta dish from the children's menu, Jack had a pizza, Sam an American pizza off the main menu and the husband an American hot pizza. The meals and drinks were brought out quickly and we opted to have the children's starters of dough balls and salad at the same time as the mains. Whilst they waited they were kept busy with pencils and activity packs.

I love Pizza Express pizzas as their base is lovely and thin and crispy and they are always packed full of flavour. Having looked at their Christmas range I now want to try out the Porchetta Romana, a pizza with roasted pork belly, sage & mozzarella on top of a scrumpy cider apple sauce, with pork crackling - sounds delicious! I would finish the meal off with snowball dough balls , sprinkled with cinnamon and served with vanilla cream.

Even though the restaurant was full to capacity we didn't have to wait long for food and drinks and the staff were very friendly. The children managed to squeeze a quick dessert and Bambinoccino in before it was time to leave and watch Hanna's friend (from dance class that she used to attend) switch the lights on.

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I was provided with a gift card towards the cost of our meal

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Win a Cadbury Essential Christmas Collection

As a very special thank you to all of my readers I have a collection of Cadbury chocolate worth £30 up for grabs for one lucky person courtesy of Cadbury Gifts Direct.

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Contains: 
1 x Snowman Selection Box
1 x Christmas Sleigh Selection Pack
1 x Mixed Chocolate Christmas Decorations 144g 
1 x Cadbury Chocolate Chunks Carton 193g
1 x Snow Bites Bag 100g
1 x Chocolate Snowman 100g
1 x Wishes Share Bag 128g
1 x Choc Full Of Popcorn Bag 130g
1 x Maynards Christmas Jellies 100g
1 x Freddo Treatsize Selection Carton
1 x Milk Tray 200g
1 x Chocolate Coins Net

How fab would it be to win this in time for Christmas, there is something for everyone including lots of stocking filler treats.

All you need to do to be in with a chance of winning is to complete the Rafflecopter form below.


I was provided with a Cadbury Essential Christmas Collection in exchange for hosting this giveaway

Christmas Party Food - Mini Falafel Pies

With Christmas descending upon us rapidly I'm thinking more and more about food, not just food for the big day itself but also for Christmas Eve when we have family coming. We have plans for the day and I don't want to spend too much of it in the kitchen cooking, and plan to make the bulk of the party snacks and appetisers in advance.


Supermarket sausage rolls are often a good party staple to have in the freezer ready for any unexpected guests but these mini falafel pies are a great alternative for vegetarians, or if you prefer home made sausage rolls with a little twist - no sausage, ha!


They are very simple to make and the the falafel mix can be made in advance and kept in the fridge.


Mini Falafel Pies


Mini Falafel Pies - makes 8

250g chickpeas
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
handful of fresh coriander
drizzle of olive oil
250g puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
  • Add the chickpeas, spices & olive oil to a food processor and blend until smooth (ish)
  • Roll the pastry out to a large rectangle approx 25cm in length
  • Straighten the edges of the pastry if necessary and cut into 8 equal rectangles
  • Spoon some of the falafel mixture onto one half of the rectangle
  • Brush around the edge of the pastry with beaten egg and fold over the mixture
  • Seal the edges with the prongs of a fork and place on a baking tray
  • Repeat with the remaining mixture and pastry
  • Brush all the pies with beaten egg
  • Place in a preheated 200 C oven for approx 15 - 20 minutes, until golden brown


Serve warm with mango chutney and yoghurt for dipping

Mini Falafel Pies



Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Coffee Vodka & Boozy Mocha Mousse

Last week I made my Russian Toffee Coffee using a shot of Toffee Vodka to perk up the coffee. This week I've made a coffee flavoured vodka that makes a great after dinner drink over ice, or can be added to coffee for an extra kick. It can also be used in recipes such as Tiramisu, coffee cake or added to a mousse.


Coffee Vodka

It can be made in whatever quantity you choose, making the coffee syrup first and then adding the vodka to taste.


Coffee Vodka

75g dark soft brown sugar
150ml espresso coffee
100ml vodka

  • Add the sugar and coffee to a saucepan and bring to the boil
  • Simmer for 10 minutes
  • Pour the coffee syrup into a sterilised bottle and add the vodka

Coffee Vodka

It is really that simple, and the end result is not unlike the taste of Tia Maria - delicious if you are a coffee lover.


Now that you've made the coffee vodka you can use it to pour over ice cream, in baking and also whip up this very delicious mousse. This recipe serves one but you can just increase the quantities for additional servings.



Boozy Mocha Mousse
- serves 1


50ml Double cream
50g Nutella chocolate spread
1 tbsp Coffee Vodka
  • Whisk the ingredients together until they form soft peaks
  • Pour into a glass or small dish & refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
Boozy Mocha Mousse

Just another day in The Crazy Kitchen....

This blog post is my entry into the Tots100/Part Select ’Love Your Appliance’ competition


One appliance I definitely could not, without a doubt, live without is my washing machine. If anything else went wrong I'm sure I could cope, but the washing machine? nah. Yes, I love my Tassimo, my Kitchen Aid and my tumble drier but in reality I could do without them for longer than my washing machine.

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The washing basket is rarely empty long in this house, but I also have to say that it is rarely full for long either. Due to a temperamental machine that likes to spew grey sludge over the clothes if it is overfilled, at too high a temperature or on an ultra fast spin, I tend to do daily, small loads on a low temperature fast wash.

Just a couple of weeks ago I was carrying out my washing machine maintenance of cleaning the dispenser drawer. I usually just give it a quick wash and pop it back in but this time I decided to give it a good soak in bleach instead of putting on another load ...

Later in the day I rinsed off the dispenser drawer, dried it and put it back in the machine but I was aware of a slight hissing sound coming from around the sink/washing machine area. It was intermittent and I couldn't decide if it was something to do with the electricity so to be safe I switched the power off to the washing machine.

When the husband came home I asked him if he could hear it, unfortunately he not only suffers from selective hearing but also can't hear particularly high pitched sounds. I was getting annoyed that he couldn't hear it and was convinced that it was coming from behind the washing machine so I started to pull it out. At that moment I realised that the hissing was the same sound that you hear from a leaking garden hose and quickly ran upstairs to grab towels from the airing cupboard (from that huge pile that you dare not throw away in case of moments like this).

We then pulled the washing machine away from the wall and as we did the inlet pipe snapped away from the back of the machine spraying water fiercely at the wall. All the time Jack was stood by watching and the moments that followed could have been from an episode of Frank Spencer....

The washing up bowl was quickly placed at the end of the hose, filling rapidly, the husband was rummaging around for the stop cock.....the full bowl was then swiped away quickly to empty, only it wouldn't fit through the gap between the washing machine and worktop without being tipped up and the washing machine wouldn't move as the waste pipe was too short...

cue me screaming "get a bucket, turn the water off, quick, DO SOMETHING"

cue more rummaging from husband
cue Jack running backwards & forwards and around and around in an attempt to look for a bucket
cue bright idea from husband that he would put the hose straight into the sink - why didn't I think of that you may wonder....I'll tell you why I didn't think of it was because I didn't need to think to know that THE HOSE WAS TOO DAMN SHORT TO GO INTO THE SINK
cue husband grabbing the short hose and inadvertently pointing it in the direction of me & Jack
cue more screaming from me (and possibly an expletive)
cue screaming from Jack as he is knocked to the floor by the force of the water, and more screaming as he tries to get up and slips over
cue more rummaging from the husband .....and then the flow of water stops "I couldn't remember where the tap was in all that panic", as myself and Jack stand there dripping in water.
This appliance gets my seal of approval!

PetShopBowl Online Pet Store {review}

It was the turn of the newest member of the family to be sent something to review this week. Freddy the hamster received two very large boxes of some rather tasty smelling goodies.


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 It took a while to get into everything in the boxes as it was all really well packed in recyclable packaging.


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Once it was all unpacked Freddy checked that we had the right brand of food...


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Petshopbowl.co.uk is an online pet supplies store that aim to provide excellent service and value for money for their customers. They offer a unique 'Bottomless Bowl' re-order service so you never need to worry about running out of pet food again. Once you place an order you can choose to have it delivered on a regular basis to suit your needs, and then sit back and never visit the pet shop again.


We only have one hamster so we don't need to take advantage of the re-order service but I can imagine how useful it would be if you had dogs or cats. Not only is this service a great helping hand but in my experience PetShopBowl is also great value for money. Our delivery totalled just under £40 but an equivalent order at a well known pet store would have totalled over £50. We received bedding, food, a carrier, cleaning spray, treats, toys and bird food.

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We now have a very happy Freddy.


we were sent the above products for the purpose of this review

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Kids Only Cookbook {review}

The Kids Only Cookbook, is exactly that, a cookbook only for kids. It's packed full of recipes for kids, made by kids, with easy to follow step by step photographs and captions to allow children to cook the recipes for themselves, with little of no assistance from adults.


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Written by food writer Sue Quinn, with help from her two children, the cookbook contains over 50 recipes including Rocky Road, Guacamole, pizza, chips, baked potatoes, cupcakes and lots more - great for getting children into the kitchen and learning all the basics.

We were sent equipment to enable us to make Flowerpot Bread, and at the weekend I set the boys to work whilst their sister was at a swimming gala.

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They worked together rubbing the butter into the flour.

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Adding the milk, and mixing together.

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They formed a dough and popped it into the flowerpots ready for baking.

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30 minutes later we had two lovely loaves.

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Perfect!

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They were more like huge scones than bread, but very nice all the same.

This is a great book either for kids that already enjoy cooking or for those that would like to start. It's not a cookbook full of stylish photos, it's real - you can see the children making all of the dishes step by step, with more than 10 photos for each recipe.

Watch this video to see how much fun can be had by making tin can ice cream, just brilliant!







  We received a cookbook and hamper of goodies to enable us to make flowerpot bread. I was not asked to blog about this but chose to do so as I think it's a brilliant book!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Oven Baked Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar Chips

We sometimes have chips twice in one week *gasp*, but it's not something that I feel guilty about because they are home-made chips, baked in the oven using Olive oil. They are one of the easiest potato dishes to make, and the kids love them. They are so much easier than mash as there is no need to peel the spuds, just give them a good wash.


In the summer I shared a recipe for my best no fry chips, which is basically what these are, except these have an added twist of being cooked in Balsamic vinegar.



Oven Baked Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar Chips

Oven Baked Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar Chips - serves 4


1 kg potatoes, cut into 1cm chips
3 tbsp Olive oil
3 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
good pinch of Sea salt

  • Wash and dry the chips
  • Add to a large baking tin and pour over the olive oil and balsamic
  • Toss the chips in the oil and vinegar until fully coated
  • Sprinkle with the sea salt and place in the preheated 200C oven for around 45 minutes, until golden brown, turning every 10-15 minutes
Serve with Balsamic mustard for dipping

Oven Baked Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar Chips


I was sent Maille Balsamic Vinegar and Maille Wholegrain Mustard with Balsamic to try out


Thursday, 21 November 2013

Russian Toffee Coffee

When I think of warming winter drinks I automatically think of Irish Coffees (aside from mulled wine). An Irish coffee is a perfect way to end a meal or to warm up on a cold and snowy night - it's not unusual for me to order an Irish coffee in the local pub after a session of snow angelling.

Last weekend I made some toffee vodka for Christmas. I think I made it too soon though as there is already a substantial amount missing from the bottle as I've discovered it's lovely in coffee, so when Tassimo gave me a challenge of creating a winter warmer drink it had to be this.

Russian Toffee Coffee

Russian Toffee Coffee

Shot of Toffee Vodka
Scoop of Kelly's clotted cream and Honeycomb ice cream (or another flavour of your choice)
Tassimo Espresso shot
Whipped cream
chocolate sprinkles
Cinnamon stick stirrer 
  • Add a shot of toffee vodka to a glass
  • Add a scoop of ice cream on top
  • Pour in a freshly brewed shot of Espresso
  • Top with whipped cream and decorate with chocolate sprinkles


Russian Toffee Coffee
Russian Toffee Coffee

I was sent a selection of Tassimo drinks along with additional ingredients to make my Winter Warmers

Cheesy Vegetable Parcels with Herby Chips & Honey Mustard Mayo

I love it when I receive a set of food items and am challenged to make something with them. Last week a very large box arrived filled with lots of goodies from brands under the Unilever umbrella.

Unilver hamper

There were lots of Knorr stock pots which are going to come in very handy in soups and stews over these winter months. As I'm a little bit addicted to wrapping food in filo pastry since I made turkey spring rolls, I decided to make some filo parcels to contain whatever it was that I was going to cook.  I decided in the end to try out one of the Colman's Season & Steam bags to cook some vegetables to go in the parcels, to be accompanied by home baked chips (very popular in this household) and a honey mustard mayo (not so polular). These quantities will feed a family of 4.

The herby chips have been crowned 'THE best chips you've ever made' by 13yr old Sam.

Vegetable Parcels with Herby Chips & Honey Mustard Mayo

Vegetable Parcels - makes 12

2 tomatoes, each cut into 8
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 courgette, cut in half lengthways & then sliced
1 packet of Colmans Season & Steam Mediterranean Vegetables
100g Bavarian smoked cheese, grated
6 sheets of Filo pastry, halved
75g Flora buttery, melted

  • Follow the directions on the pack to cook the vegetables, allow to cool
  • Mix the vegetables with the cheese
  • Lay the sheets of filo into a pile and one at a time add a spoonful of vegetable mixture to the lower right hand corner of the pastry 
  • Brush around the edges of the filo with the Flora buttery
  • Fold the corner over the filling, fold the sides in and roll up into a parcel & place on a baking sheet
  • Repeat with the remaining filo & filling
  • Brush each parcel with more Flora buttery
  • Bake in a 220 C oven for approx 20 minutes until golden brown


Vegetable Parcels with Herby Chips & Honey Mustard Mayo

Herby Chips

1kg potatoes, cut into 1cm chips
3 tbsp olive oil
1 Knorr herb infusions stock pot
  • Wash and dry the chips
  • Add the oil to a large baking tin and place in a 220C oven for 5 minutes
  • Remove and stir the stock pot into the oil
  • Toss in the chips and coat in the oil and herbs
  • Cook for approx 45 minutes, tossing every 10-15 minutes

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Honey Mustard Mayo

125g Hellmanns real Mayonnaise
25g Maille Dijon mustard with honey

  • Mix the mayo & mustard together

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

#HiggidyPieNight British Beef, Stilton & Ale Pie

I was unable to join in with the #HiggidyPieNight on Twitter tonight but we still managed to eat our pie (and enjoy a glass of wine).

This week's pie was British Beef, Stilton & Ale, a shortcrust pastry case filled with a beef, ale & stilton stew and topped with a pile of mash. I was pretty sure I would like this one as I like Stilton, unlike the other members of the family. Of course, just like when I add a secret ingredient to one of my recipes, I didn't tell anyone what was in the pie until they had eaten it and confirmed that they liked it.

#HiggidyPieNight


Sam absolutely loved this pie, especially the huge pieces of tender beef.

#HiggidyPieNight

The husband (who I will say doesn't have the most refined tastebuds) said he thought it was a bit bland and not nearly as good as the Chicken Pot Pie of last week or the Spinach, Feta & Pine Nut pie that we'd previously eaten, although he did really like the shortcrust pastry.

If you want to find out more about Higgidy pies and be in with a chance of winning prizes then join in next week's #HiggidyPieNight at 8pm


I was sent pies and wine to enable me to join in with #HiggidyPieNight pie tasting

Toffee Vodka

This is the second of my home-made alcoholic drinks for Christmas, my first being Cherry Vodka. Whereas that one is best left for a few months, this is good to drink within a couple of days. I have my sister in law to thank for putting this idea into my head and just had to try it for myself.

Toffee Vodka

500ml bottle with secure stopper
vodka
135g Werthers Original butter candies

  • If the neck on the bottle is wide enough you can put the Werthers straight into the bottle, otherwise you may have to cut them in half.
  • Once all of the sweets are in the bottle then just top up with vodka and pop a lid on.
  • Over the next couple of days shake the bottle to dissolve the sweets
  • Once they are fully dissolved it's ready to drink


Toffee Vodka

Coming soon ..... Malteser Vodka!


I was sent the above bottle as part of a package from Pattesons Glass. This is a corked 500ml Stephanie bottle.

Home Made Chocolate Peppermint Bark

If you have a Dr Who fan in the family then Lakeland have the range for you at the moment. There is a huge range of bakeware, here is just a small selection of what they have.....


Doctor Who at Lakeland

We haven't got any Dr Who fans in this household so when Lakeland asked if I wanted to review some of the range I politely declined and cheekily asked instead if I could review a Peppermint Bark Mould that I had seen used on someone else's blog (which I now can't find for the life of me! *). I've made Peppermint bark before but only in a baking tray - this mould makes it look so much more professional, and perfect for gifts.

Chocolate Peppermint BarkChocolate Peppermint Bark

The mould has 2 sections to enable you to make 2 bars at the same time, with each bar containing approximately 200g of chocolate. I used a combination of milk, white and dark chocolate for these.

Chocolate Peppermint Bark

I then used some Lakeland presentation bags and ribbon (models own) to make them look fit to fill somebody's Christmas stocking.

Chocolate Peppermint Bark

I'm going to be trying all different flavours to make gifts for everyone, and do you know what the best part about making your own chocolate gifts is? nobody knows that you've used smartprice chocolate...shhhhhh!

* EDIT : the post has been kindly pointed out to me, hurrah, and it's this lovely one here, with pistachio & cranberry on the chocolate.

The peppermint bark mould is just £5.99 & I was sent this and the bags for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday Wishlist - Teal Living

It's Wednesday already, which not only means it's 'hump day' but it's also Wednesday Wishlist day on Mummy Alarm. This week I'm going all Teal as I'm revamping the lounge. It's based around Teal anyway but I've taken the old brown curtains down to make way for some new blinds, and picked up some new lighting. I got a bit of a bargain at Sainsburys on two droplet pendant shades at the weekend, reduced from £25 each to just £12.50.

Here are a few more items that I have my eye on....

Teal Living

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