Blackberry & Blueberry Rustic Tart

Nothing says summer like fresh fruit and if blackberries aren’t in the mix, you’re missing out. Blackberries have a sweet, tart flavor making them perfect for salads, smoothies, blended into savory sauces, eaten fresh or in desserts.

Blackberries are closely related to raspberries but should not be confused with the black raspberry. Although native to Europe, we can grow them here in Canada. They will thrive in a wide range of soils but good drainage and direct sunlight are a must. Blackberries are the largest of the wild berries, growing on thorny bushes called brambles.

Because blackberries and blueberries make such an amazing combo, using them in this tart seems very fitting. My favorite alternative cornmeal pastry makes a buttery yet slightly crunchy crust. Since it stays so soft, I found it easier to press this pastry into the tart pan as opposed to rolling it out. I added a border after I filled the shell to give it a more rustic look. What more could you want — eye appeal and a fabulous flavor!

I should mention, I’m going to post some balsamic glazed fig & pork kebabs next time. Save a couple of pieces of this tart as they are a perfect ending to that meal.

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Blackberry & Blueberry Rustic Tart
Servings
Ingredients
Cornmeal pastry
Servings
Ingredients
Cornmeal pastry
Instructions
Cornmeal Pastry
  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. With fingertips, cut in butter until mixture resembles small peas. In a measuring up, combine ICE water & sour cream. Add to dry mixture. Mix only until combined, do not over mix. Press into your favorite choice of pan ( tart, quiche or pie pans are all good). Place in fridge or freezer until ready to fill.
Filling
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large bowl, combine berries, sugar, flour & lemon juice; spoon into pastry shell. Brush edges with beaten egg & sprinkle with coarse sugar.
  2. Bake 45-50 minutes or until crust is golden & filling is bubbly. If your pan has a removable bottom, it makes it a lot easier for serving. Cool slightly & serve with whip cream (or ice cream) if you choose.

Bumble Berry Pie

This is a Canadian berry pie, originating from the Maritime provinces that is made up of at least three kinds of berries. Since there is no such thing as a ‘bumble berry’, as the name suggests, its a mixture of berries that are in season (ones that you might bumble upon).

Berries commonly used in this pie may include blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries. Other choices often used are apples, rhubarb, cherries, plums or fresh cranberries.

Most often the pie is made with a top crust of pastry or designs cut out and laid over the fruit. Other ideas would be to use a nice streusal topping or as I have done on mine, grated pastry sprinkled with coarse sugar.

This is such a great summer dessert served, of course, with ice cream!

Print Recipe
Bumble Berry Pie
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
serves 8 people
Ingredients
Filling
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
serves 8 people
Ingredients
Filling
Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder & salt. With a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in white & yellow Crisco shortening. In a measuring cup, place the egg & vinegar then add enough COLD water to make 1 cup; whisk together. Make a well in center of flour & pour ALL liquid in. With hands combine quickly but do NOT over mix. This recipe will should give you enough for about 3 - double crust 10-inch pies. Whatever you don't use, freeze for later use. This is so handy when time is short & dessert is needed. At this time, roll out a 10-inch bottom pie shell, place in pie pan & refrigerate until ready to fill. Take the same amount of pastry, form it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap & place it in the freezer. When you are ready for the top pastry on your bumble berry pie, remove the ball from the freezer & GRATE it over the top of the fruit.
Filling
  1. In a large bowl, combine fruit. In another dish, whisk together sugar, flour, cornstarch & cinnamon. Gently toss into fruit mixture along with lemon juice.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Place filling into chilled pie shell, using the large holes on a box grater, grate the ball of pastry (from freezer) directly over the fruit, as you would a block of cheese. Using a fork, gently move the gratings here & there for an even covering. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.
  2. Bake pie on center rack for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 F. rotating pie for even baking. Bake about 25-30 minutes more or until to is golden brown & juices are bubbly & thick around the edge. Remove from oven. Serve warm with ice cream.
Recipe Notes
  • Never hesitate to vary the fruit you choose for this pie. Remember, its whatever you 'bumble' upon!

Tortilla Crepe Stacks

To some of us, Mexican food terms get a little confusing. I mean there is the taco, burrito, quesadilla, enchilada and taquito just to name a few. Before anything, one needs to know what a tortilla is. Simply put, it is wheat or corn plain bread that is used as a wrapping material around different types of filling ingredients to make the various Mexican dishes. 

Masa Harina is a traditional flour used to make corn tortillas and tamales as well as other Mexican meals. To make masa harina, field corn (or maize) is dried and then treated in a solution of lime and water called slaked lime (or wood-ash lye). This loosens the hulls from the kernels and softens the corn. In addition, the lime reacts with the corn so that the nutrient niacin can be assimilated by the digestive tract.

The soaked maize is then washed, and the wet corn is ground into a dough called masa. It is this fresh masa, when dried and powdered, that becomes masa harina. Water is added again to make dough for the corn tortillas or tamales.

Cornmeal and masa harina are very different preparations of corn. Do not try to substitute cornmeal or regular wheat flour in recipes calling for masa harina as they will not produce the same results.

Today, I want to make some tortilla crepe stacks. Crepes as we all know, have always been a hallmark of French cuisine. So the question is, ‘how did they come to be in Mexican cuisine’? In the 1860’s, French forces invaded Mexico. They came, they conquered, they cooked and then they got kicked out. Cinco de Mayo commemorates that victory for Mexico from 1862. However, it took another five years before the French left Mexico for good. During their stay, the French left their mark on the country’s cuisine.

One of the reasons I have always loved crepes, is that they are so easy to make and taste so good. You can either roll the filling inside or just stack them with their fillings and make a ‘cake’.

These tortilla crepes are made with half masa harina and half white flour. Next, I made a mushroom rice & barley pilaf and some guacamole. You can pick and choose when it comes to the extra filling add-ons. I guess it did get a bit more involved but worth it —.


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Tortilla Crepe Stacks


Instructions
Tortilla Crepes
  1. In a blender, beat eggs with milk & oil. Gradually add masa harina, white flour & salt, beat until smooth. Allow to stand for 1 hour or longer. Heat an electric griddle to 350 F. Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop batter onto griddle. With bottom of 1/4 cup, make circles in the batter, gradually enlarge to size of tortilla you wish to make. I made 3 for each crepe stack. Cook each crepe for a few minutes on each side then remove to a wire cooling rack.

Rice & Barley Pilaf
  1. In a saucepan, saute onion, garlic & mushrooms until tender crisp. Add chicken broth & bring to a boil. Add all remaining pilaf ingredients & reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until barley & rice are cooked & liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; place in a dish & set aside to cool.

Guacamole
  1. Mince onion & sun-dried tomatoes & mash avocados. In a small bowl, combine avocados, onion, sun-dried tomatoes, & remaining guacamole ingredients. Blend well, cover & refrigerate.

Crepe Stack Fillings
  1. Cook chicken & shred, Grate cheese & prepare all filling ingredients.

Assembly
  1. Spread 4 tortillas with guacamole, reserving a bit for 'decorating' the top of each stack. Over the guacamole, put a layer of rice/barley pilaf. Top each of them with chicken, green peppers, olives, corn, red onion, fresh tomatoes, zucchini, black beans & a sprinkling of cheese. On 2 serving plates, place one filled tortilla topped by a second one. Complete each stack with another corn tortilla. 'Decorate' each with remaining guacamole, salsa, sour cream & remaining cheese. Heat each crepe stack for a few minutes in the microwave before serving.

Hot Cross ‘Pockets’

Rich and decadent, dotted with dried fruit and nuts and fragrant with spices, what’s not to love about Hot Cross Buns?  When I think of Easter baking, there are two items that come to mind. An egg, rich Easter bread, baked in a cylinder loaf, and hot cross buns. ‘To die for’ is the only way I can describe the ones my mother made for us.

In medieval times, eating  hot cross buns marked the end of Lent because they were made from dairy products which were forbidden during Lent. Plain buns were traditionally eaten, hot or toasted, beginning on Shrove Tuesday through to Good Friday.

While hot cross buns are now sold throughout the year, they were once reserved for Good Friday alone. The rejection of traditions, categories and boundaries, etc. seems to be the accepted ‘norm’ in today’s society. It destroys specialness and undermines difference. I love traditions and enjoy specific things or foods associated with them on the actual occasions. As I researched these classic buns, I realized that there are as many ways to make them as there are families who bake them.

Sometimes the dough is slashed to make the cross. Other times a flour and water paste or a sweet icing is used to create the symbol. Then the same sweet dough can be made into a loaf form, bread pudding or french toast. 

On that note, I thought, why couldn’t these little treasures be ‘filled’ and baked in a round pan like pull-apart buns. I liked the nice presentation it gave as well as that wonderful traditional flavor.

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Hot Cross 'Pockets'
Instructions
Fruit Filling
  1. In a small bowl, combine citrus peel, cranberries, apricots & rum extract. Set aside to marinate while preparing dough. When ready to use, add chopped almonds. Drain off any excess extract.
Dough
  1. In a small dish, heat milk to lukewarm. Add yeast & 1 tsp sugar; let sit for 5 minutes to allow yeast to activate. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1/4 cup sugar, melted butter, sour cream & egg. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine.
  2. In another bowl, whisk flour, spices & salt. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture 1 cup at a time, combining after each addition. Once all flour has been added, knead dough on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes.
  3. Lightly grease the large bowl, place dough in it & cover with plastic wrap & a tea towel. Allow to rest for at least one hour, in a draft-free place until dough has doubled in volume.
  4. Punch down dough; divide into 18 equal pieces & roll each with a rolling pin. Divide, drained fruit mixture between rolls. Pull corners toward the center, pinching to form pockets. Place filled pockets in a round baking pan with the pinched corners up. Cover with plastic wrap & a tea towel; allow to rise for an hour or until doubled in size.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake pockets about 20 minutes or until baked & golden. Remove from oven; cool before drizzling with glaze in the form of a cross on each bun.
Glaze
  1. In a small dish, combine powdered sugar & lemon juice; mixing until a smooth consistency for drizzling.
Recipe Notes
  • If you wish, don't hesitate to brush each pocket with egg wash before baking. Probably easiest to do it with your finger tips.

Blueberry Zucchini Bars with Lemon Glaze

There’s no question, fresh blueberries are a pleasure to bake with. But, along with being quite expensive, their season is short. As a result, frozen ones become the backbone of winter blueberry desserts. Using them in a pie presents no problem. When it comes to putting them into a batter, frozen berries bleeding juice, turn that golden hue into a shade of purple green when baked. Not good! I’ve found a simple solution is to rinse the berries in cold water, then gently dry them between layers of paper towel. You will probably lose a bit of the berries nutrition, but for most part, the juice and vitamins will remain inside.

Pairing zucchini with fruit in baked goods might seem a little odd but no different than using carrots in cake. Zucchini has grown in popularity over the years due to its amazing growth rate in the garden and its versatility. It can be sauteed, baked, poached, stuffed, eaten raw and of course baked into breads, cakes, scones etc., etc.

These little blueberry/zucchini bars are extremely moist and tender. The lemon in the batter and the glaze takes them to the level of amazing in my opinion. We just loved them.

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Blueberry Zucchini Bars with Lemon Glaze
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
Batter
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 X 13-inch ( or 15 X 10 X 1) baking pan.
  2. In a small bowl, combine zucchini, buttermilk, lemon zest & lemon juice; toss to combine. In a large bowl, cream butter & sugar until light & fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. In a third bowl, whisk 3 1/4 cups flour, baking soda & salt; gradually add to creamed mixture alternately with zucchini mixture, mixing well after each addition. Toss blueberries in remaining flour; fold into batter.
  3. Transfer batter to prepared pan, spreading evenly. Bake 50 minutes for 9 X 13-inch size or until light golden & a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven to a wire rack.
Lemon Glaze
  1. In a small bowl, mix glaze ingredients until smooth; spread over top while bars are still warm.
Recipe Notes
  • This recipe easily divides in half for a smaller amount using an 8 X 8-inch baking pan.

Baked Patacones with Guacamole

Until Brion and I had spent time living in Ecuador, I had never paid any attention to plantains. Really more of a vegetable than a fruit, plantains are larger and firmer than their banana relative but not sweet. They must be cooked to become palatable. With their bland, starchy, somewhat potato-like flavor, plantains take well to many cooking methods.

On one of the first meals we ate in a restaurant in Ecuador, I experienced the flavor of ‘patacones’. I had ordered an Ecuadorian ceviche and they were served as a side dish. The taste was like a potato chip but had almost a corn flavor. At the time I didn’t know what they were but the taste was definitely one that stayed with me.

In regions that compete for its origin, this specialty appears under two distinct names depending on the country. They are called  patacones in Ecuador, Columbia, Costa Rica and Peru. In Cuba, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Haiti they are called  tostones and in West Africa, just simply plantain chips.

The unripe plantain is traditionally prepared with a deep-frying method. The frying is done twice to ensure a crispy chip. You first peel the green plantains and slice them. Then the chips are fried on both sides, removed from the oil and blotted on paper towel. The tostones or patacones are now flattened somewhat and re-fried to provide extra crispiness. Salt may be used to add flavor to the chips. The thicker version (patacones) should be served hot or warm and are nice eaten with guacamole, garlic sauce, grated cheese or as a side dish.

As always, in my quest to bake rather than deep fry, I decided to make some patacones in the oven today. To add some guacamole = yum!!

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Baked Patacones with Guacamole
Instructions
Baked Patacones
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Slice plantain into 1-inch thick slices. Place on baking sheet & drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt.
  2. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven & with the end of a glass, 'squash' each piece down flat. Thinner = crispier. Place back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until crispy to your liking. Serve with guacamole.
Guacamole
  1. In a small bowl, mash avocados. Add minced red onion, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, garlic powder, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Combine thoroughly & serve.
Recipe Notes
  • Just for interest, the special or tradional tool used to flatten plantain slices is called a 'tostonera'.

Roasted Strawberry & Hazelnut Pastries

Definitely, roasted fruit is one of my favorite summer desserts. It becomes so intense when its been sizzling and caramelizing at a high temperature. Roasted strawberries are one fruit that can take any dish to the next level. Along with the fact that it will stain even the palest berries to a ruby red, the subtle use of aromatic ingredients like lemon, vanilla or rose water can breathe new life into your bland unripe berries. Another added bonus is that the seeds add a little crunch to the tender, supple structure of a roasted strawberry.

I wanted to make something quick and easy for dessert today. I just happened to have some strawberries on hand why not roast them. A while back I saw an idea on youtube.com with strawberries and of all things, the famous chocolate hazelnut spread, ‘Nutella’. I have to be honest, I have maybe only tasted it once or twice but what the heck! Of course, you guessed it, I would first want to read up on its history. You maybe know all this but—–   It seems it all started with the same Italian family that gave us the glorious ‘Ferrero Rocher’ chocolates. Nutella was invented during WWII when the war had created a chocolate shortage.

In 1925, Italian chocolatier, Pietro Ferrero, perfected the so-called ‘pastone’ (pastry mesh) of chocolate and hazelnuts. The Piedmont region of Italy, which his family called home, is famed for its delicious and abundant hazelnuts. In 1946, he created pasta giandja (or giandujot) which was made in a small hard loaf or bar, wrapped in aluminum foil and could be sold at a cheaper price. This chocolate could be cut into slices to eat on bread which formed a big part of the diet at the time. In 1949, a spreadable version called supercrema gianduja was intoduced, which was later renamed ‘Nutella’ in 1964. The name gave the product international appeal. It said ‘nuts’ and it also said Italy — ‘ella’ being a common affectionate ending in Italian such as in mozzarella cheese, tagliatella (a form of pasta) or caramella (a sweet).

Fifty years on, the company is the number one user of hazelnuts worldwide. Interesting!    OK, now on with the pastries. 

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Roasted Strawberry & Hazelnut Pastries
Instructions
Roasted Strawberries
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Slice off blossoms; leave small & medium berries whole, cutting largest ones in half. In a glass baking dish, toss with sugar, salt & lemon juice.
  2. Roast, stirring once or twice, for about 30-40 minutes, long enough for the berry juices to thicken but not burn. Remove from oven; add vanilla & rose water. Set aside until ready to use.
Pastries
  1. On parchment paper, lay out sheet of puff pastry. At one end of the pastry, spread hazelnut cream& top with cooled roasted strawberry 'jam'. Below the chocolate/strawberry mixture make 5 slices so you end up with six strips. Starting at top where the filling is, roll up pastry & join the two ends together to make a wreath.
  2. Adjust oven to 400 F. Brush with egg wash , sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts. Lift wreath ON the parchment paper to baking sheet & bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Chinese Pork Ribs with Spicy Rhubarb Sauce

It seems that the exact origin of five-spice powder is unknown but there is some speculation that the blend was created in traditional Chinese medicine. A very unique spice blend that represents a wide range of flavors from sweet, salty and bitter to pungent and sour. Rumor has it that the Chinese were trying to create a ‘miracle powder’ that was representative of all the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Then again, its possible that a cook accidentally stumbled upon this particular combination of spices and realized its power to improve on a bland dish. In any case, it is very versatile and can be used not only in cooking but also adds a unique flavor to baked goods.

Many recipes for five-spice powder exist but there is no one traditional recipe. Often the ingredients and amounts can vary from region to region and are different depending on the household and individual tastes. The original blend contained star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, fennel seed, cinnamon and cloves. A staple in Chinese cuisine but has also found its way into other international cuisines such as Vietnamese and Hawaiian food.

This is an interesting recipe combining pork with a spicy rhubarb sauce. Definitely a keeper!

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Chinese Pork Ribs with Spicy Rhubarb Sauce
Instructions
Rhubarb Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, combine rhubarb, water, honey, hoisin, garlic, ginger, 5-spice powder & crushed red pepper. Bring to a simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced & the rhubarb is very soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat & stir in soy sauce & lemon juice. Transfer 2 TABLESPOONS of the sauce to a saucer; set aside the remaining sauce until serving time.
Rib Marinade
  1. In a resealable large plastic bag, combine soy sauce, honey, oil, 5-spice powder, salt, pepper & the 2 Tbsp of reserved 'rhubarb sauce'. Place ribs in the bag; seal & marinate in refrigerator at least 2 hours or overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 275 F. Place ribs & marinade in a baking dish. Place in oven to SLOW roast for about 1 1/2 hours until VERY tender. Remove from oven, garnish with sliced green onion & serve with remaining rhubarb sauce.

Chicken Avocado Flax Crepe Stacks

Flax is a flavor that has always appealed to me. I like it both in the ground or seed form. Flax is sown and harvested much like a spring cereal crop and matures at the same time as wheat. Although its place of origin is unknown, it seems likely it it would be southwest Asia. Flax is one of the oldest textile fibers used by humans.  Evidence of its use have been found in Switzerland’s prehistoric lake dwellings as well as fine linen fabrics being discovered in ancient Egyptian tombs.

Here in Canada, flax is produced as an oil seed crop. Superior oil quality and higher oil content have long been major features of Canadian flax seed, attributed to Canada’s climate. I remember my father growing flax as a trial crop one year in southern Alberta. The thing that made a lasting memory for me was its pretty azure blue flowers and interesting little seed pods. Thinking about that, it must have been in the late fifties or early sixties.

Today, I’m making some crepe stacks using flax-meal in the crepes. It should give a nice nutty flavor to compliment the chicken-avocado filling.

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Chicken Avocado Flax Crepe Stacks
Instructions
Flax Crepes
  1. In a blender, combine crepe ingredients & blend for 1 minute at high speed. Scrape down sides; whirl for another 15 seconds. Cover & refrigerate for at least 1 hour or longer. Heat a non-stick griddle (or use a crepe pan). Using a 1/4 cup measure, pour batter on griddle using a circular motion to create the right size of crepe needed. Cook about 2- 3 minutes on each side. When cooked, cool on a wire rack until needed. This batter makes about 10 crepes.
Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, melt margarine; add flour to make a roux & cook for a few seconds. Slowly add milk/broth combo, stirring to combine well. Add spices & continue cooking for about 5 minutes or so. Set aside
Crepe Filling
  1. Mash avocados & add yogurt, spices, lemon juice, onion & sun-dried tomatoes. Set aside. Slice mushrooms & if you prefer, saute for a few minutes otherwise you can leave them raw. Prepare fresh tomatoes, red & green onions. Grate cheese.
Assembly
  1. On a work surface, lay out 3 crepes per person (for 2 people). Spread all but 2 crepes with avocado mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch border on each. Place two of the avocado 'spread' crepes on serving plates. Top each with some chicken, corn, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, 'sauce' & cheese. Lay another avocado 'spread' crepe on top of each plate & repeat with fillings, sauce & cheese. Now, top each stack with an un-spread crepe. Spread any remaining sauce in a small circle in the center. Top with the remaining filling ingredients & sprinkle with last bit of cheese. When you are ready to serve just give them a few minutes in the microwave & your done! Any remaining crepes can be frozen.
Recipe Notes

Flax can replace fat or eggs in a recipe:

  • 3 Tbsp  ground flax = 1 Tbsp butter, margarine, shortening or veg oil
  • 1 Tbsp ground flax + 3 Tbsp water = 1 egg  (combine & allow to sit 1-2 minutes before using)

Rhubarb Custard with Mini Donuts

Rhubarb is one of those flavors that signals the coming of spring. A staple crop for every Canadian homesteader, in the 1800’s, as it thrives specifically in cool climates. The focus was initially on function, not flavor and was used as a medicine due to it’s perceived benefits for the digestive system. The tartness adds kick to it’s character causing it to be adored and despised with equal vigor.

Rhubarb ‘fool’ is a traditional English dessert that was popular throughout the 19th century on both sides of the Atlantic. It generally consists of a pureed fruit folded gently into a light, custard. Today’s recipe is a take on that idea using custard, pureed rhubarb and some mini donuts for ‘dunking’.

Print Recipe
Rhubarb Custard with Mini Donuts
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Donuts
Rhubarb Sauce
Custard
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Donuts
Rhubarb Sauce
Custard
Instructions
Donuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, whisk together milk, egg, oil & lemon juice. In another bowl, combine flour, sugar & baking powder. Stir wet ingredients into flour mixture until combined in a smooth batter.
  2. Brush mini donut pan with butter. Fill each cup about 1/2 full; bake for about 4-5 minutes or until they test done. Place some sugar in a shallow dish. Remove baked donuts from oven; while still warm coat with sugar. Set aside.
Rhubarb Sauce
  1. Cut rhubarb into small pieces. In a saucepan, add rhubarb, sugar & water; bring to a boil & simmer, covered, gently for 10 minutes. Remove lid & stir, then remove from heat when it reaches a jam consistency.
Custard
  1. In a saucepan, bring milk & vanilla to a boil. In a bowl, whisk egg yolks, sugar & cornstarch together. Add the hot milk to egg mixture slowly whisking as you do so. Return the mixture to the saucepan & bring slowly to a boil, whisking constantly until thickened.
To Serve
  1. Divide custard between 4 custard dishes; place a spoonful of sauce on top. Serve the mini donuts on the side, ready to be 'dunked'.