Saturday, July 30, 2011

Grilled Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

What is better than a great steak with Chimichurri sauce?  It's an easy meal that really packs a flavorful punch.  I don't have steak very often but I REALLY love it.  Not to get up on my soapbox but I do think a great quality steak will yield a far better taste.  If I know the animal has been treated well and has roamed around the countryside in a contented manner - it will taste better.  At least I think so.  My husband who knows my feelings well, asked when I served this "Was it listening to Mozart when ........."

As far as the Chimichurri is concerned I have no such worries - this is just the happiest sauce I know - from the name to the taste.  I made this from herbs out of the garden and it just burst with flavor.  It takes less than two minutes in the processor - very helpful - and it's equally good with chicken or fish.

For the Chimichurri Sauce

1 cup parsley
1/3 cup of cilantro
1/2 cup of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
3/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon of cumin
Zest and juice of a lime
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
Pinch of salt

Steaks for grilling, fat trimmed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Herbs de Provence

To prepare the Chimichurri put all the ingredients into the processor and blitz.  Pour into a bowl and refrigerate.

To prepare the steaks, rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and Herbs de Provence.

I made these steaks on my griddle pan (love that piece of equipment).  Heat the grill or pan until REALLY hot then lay the steaks on it.  Depending on the thickness of the steaks and how well you like them done, sear for between 2 - 4 minutes a side.  Remember when you remove and cover them with aluminum foil they will carry on cooking a little - so please don't over do them.  Despite my squeamishness I do like a rare steak.  Not as rare as my good friend Joan who instructs the chef to "just walk it through the kitchen".

Let the steaks rest under the foil for at least 6 minutes.  Then slice and drizzle over the sauce.   

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tuscan Kale Salad

The other day we were lucky enough to be invited on a boat to cruise around Long Island Sound.  It was gorgeous, the girls had a grand time leaping off the boat and flinging horseshoe crabs at each other.

We had a late lunch at the Yacht Club and I ordered the Garden Salad.  It was delicious.  Not a wilted lettuce leaf in sight.  It was made with Tuscan Kale and the addition of a delicious dressing made it a refreshing treat.

Kale is such a powerhouse of goodness, packed full of Vitamin K and C, lutein and zeoxanthin.  I've read that during World War II in England the growing of kale was encouraged by the "Dig for Victory" campaign.  Although I've always enjoyed kale cooked, I had no idea how delicious it could be cold.

This is my attempt to recreate that lovely salad.  Although it does involve a fair amount of chopping, it's worth the effort and even tastes wonderful the next day.  Unusual for a salad.

1 bunch of Tuscan Kale, stems removed and leaves VERY finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely diced
1 orange pepper, finely diced
1 yellow pepper, finely diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 cup of sunflower seeds
A large handful of fresh herbs, finely chopped.  I used parsley and basil

1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of runny honey
 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
Zest and juice of a lemon
4-6 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper

Chop all the salad ingredients (except the sunflower seeds) and place in a bowl.

To make the dressing mix the honey, mustard, lemon juice and zest, vinegar and salt and pepper together to a smooth paste. 

Whisk in the the olive oil one tablespoon at a time.

Check seasonings.

Pour over the salad, add the sunflower seeds and combine.

Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Finish with one more squeeze of lemon juice.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Wonderful Cath Kidston Apron Giveaway


I love giveaways and thought it might be fun to do one of my own.  I thought it should be uniquely British and what better than a lovely Cath Kidston Apron.  I LOVE her dish towels, oven gloves and aprons and wanted a chance to hand on this gorgeous one.   I don't think giveaways should be too complicated, so all you have to do to enter is;

1.  Leave a comment naming your favorite summer dish


2.  Sign up to become a follower

The giveaway ends Sunday, July 31st and the winner will be announced Monday August 1st.

Good luck and I hope you love the apron as much as I do!

Mary x

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Eaton Mess

This is a HUGE favorite in my house.  It's a perfect summer dessert.  Eaton Mess is an old English dessert that I grew up on, all of a sudden it's come back in vogue and I'm seeing Eaton Mess all over the place.  Just in case you didn't already know, this dessert is said to have originated at the boys public school Eaton (where Prince William and Harry went to school).  Apparently the students were served meringues, strawberries and cream and they mushed the whole thing up and it tasted wonderful  even though it looked a mess - hence the name - Eaton Mess.

I like to use a combination of berries, some people use rhubarb or even pomegranates - so please yourself!  I do enjoy making meringues so I used my own, click here
 for a lovely meringue recipe.  However if you're running short on time (as I invariably am) use store bought meringues.  It's not quite as good - but still pretty delicious.

You will need;

Meringues, homemade or store bought

1 carton of strawberries, cleaned and hulled
1 carton of blueberries
2 cartons of raspberries
1 tablespoons of water
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of sugar
8oz of double cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
a sprinkle of sugar

To make the raspberry sauce;

Place the raspberries, water, vanilla extract and sugar in a saucepan.  Heat and bring to a gentle simmer.  Cook until the raspberries are very mushy. 

Drain through a sieve and put the liquid into the fridge to chill.

Break the meringues up into pieces and place in one big bowl.  Whip the cream, vanilla extract and sprinkle of sugar to just between soft peaks and stiff - but not too stiff.

Add gently to the meringues.

Add the strawberries and blueberries to the mixture and stir gently to combine.

Place into pretty individual serving glasses.  Drizzle over the raspberry sauce and top with a sprig of mint. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hot Weather Sandwiches and a Tabbouleh Salad Inspired by Le Pain Quotidien

Chicken Salad with Date Chutney

Hummus and Tuna Salad Sandwich

Tabbouleh Salad

Egg Salad

The girls and I were in New York City on Monday and found ourselves wandering down Madison Avenue.  We dropped into Le Pain Quotidien for lunch and honestly I didn't want to leave.  We used to live in the city and I would quite often take the girls here for breakfast or lunch. The staff were always SO nice, never seeming the least bit annoyed by the amount of noise, mess or general chaos that ensued. 

We had a wonderful lunch and I was reminded just how fabulous a really good sandwich can taste with a bit of creativity.  It occurred to me on the way home that this was perfect food for this insanely hot weather.  There is no need for the oven to be switched on to produce a mouthwatering feast. 

Here is my homage to Le Pain Quotidien's excellent sandwiches.

Chicken Salad with Date Chutney.

2-3 cooked chicken breasts.  (These can be roasted, poached, grilled or if it's just too hot to contemplate any of that - store bought)
3 sticks of celery, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
1 tablespoon of creme frache
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
Juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon of capers
salt and pepper
1/2 tomato (diced) for decoration
A handful of fresh parsley
Pinch of cumin

For the chutney (adapted from La Pain Quotidien Cookery Book)
4 oz of stoned dates
2 oz boiling water
3/4 teaspoon of harissa spice
salt and pepper

To make the Chicken Salad, dice the cooked chicken and place in a bowl.  Add all the other ingredients and stir gently to combine.  Chill in the fridge.

To make the chutney, boil the water and pour over the dates, let rest for 10-15 minutes.  Place all the ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth.  Chill in the fridge.

To serve, spread some chutney onto a piece of hearty multigrain bread, top it with a serving of chicken salad and garnish with diced tomato and fresh herbs. 

Hummus and Tuna Salad Sandwich

I love this unexpected combination. I actually used a good quality store bought hummus to which I added a little lemon zest, juice, a sprinkle of harrisa spice and a tablespoon of Greek plain yogurt.

For the Tuna Salad

2 cans of best quality tuna fish in water, drained
a couple of capers
1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
salt and pepper
2-3 sticks of celery
A squeeze of lemon and a teaspoon of lemon zest
Diced tomatoes and chopped herbs to garnish

To make the tuna salad, drain the canned tuna and place in a bowl, add all the other ingredients and chill in the fridge until ready to use.

To serve, spread a good helping of hummus onto a lovely piece of sourdough bread, top with tuna salad, diced tomato and fresh herbs.

I particularly like this egg salad, it's made with olive oil instead of mayonnaise, it's lovely and rich - in a good way!

Egg Salad (adapted from Le Pain Quotidien Cookery Book)
4-6 eggs, boiled, peeled and chopped
2 sticks of celery
4-6 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
Fresh herbs (chopped)
1/2 tomato (diced)

Mix together the olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper.  In another bowl combine the egg and the celery.  Add the olive oil mixture and stir carefully to combine.  Season to taste.  Chill in the fridge.

To serve spread the egg salad onto some wholegrain bread and garnish with herbs and diced tomato.

Tabbouleh Salad

1 1/2 cups of bulgur wheat
Juice and zest of a lemon
1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
4-6 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper
1 cup (at least) of fresh chopped herbs (mint, parsley, basil, oregano are all wonderful)
A handful of cherry tomatoes
1/2 English cucumber, seeded and finely chopped

Cook the bulgur wheat as instructed on the packet.

Drain and place into a bowl.

Make the dressing by mixing together the mustard, lemon juice and zest,  vinegar, salt and pepper and olive oil.

Pour over the bulgur wheat.  Add the cucumber, tomatoes and herbs. Stir to combine.  Check seasoning and add another squeeze of lemon just before serving.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Stuffed Artichokes

Artichokes are a bit of a double edged sword I feel.  They are such little beasts to prepare - but simply lovely to eat.  I came across this recipe when a saw an English cooking show called "Two Fat Ladies" - the title had me hooked!  Has anyone seen them? They are priceless.  They take the English eccentricity to new heights.  While obviously wonderful cooks, they don't actually tell you how much of each ingredient you'll need - so it's a bit of a shot in the dark.  

My husband said I couldn't consider myself a good cook until I had mastered artichokes!! Fine! The Two Fat Ladies made artichokes on the TV so while having no idea about quantities I gave it my best - I have to say they're rather good.  

4-6 black olives, finely chopped
Fresh white breadcrumbs (I used one piece of good quality white sandwich bread blitzed in the food processor)
A large handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
A very small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of capers
2 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and finely chopped
4 oz of Parmesan cheese
1/3 bottle of dry white wine
2 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 350F

I'm sure everyone knows how to prepare an artichoke, but I have to admit I needed a refresher course - so here are the steps - just in case.  Remember to have a cut lemon handy so you can rub it over the cut parts of the artichoke to prevent it turning brown.

To prepare the artichokes, pull off the stem and the rough outer leaves of the bottom layer.

Sip the top of the leaves around the base.

Slice off the top third of the artichoke - this can be a challenge - make sure your knife if sharp.

Then attack the inside.  You want to scoop out all the furry inside, cut around with a knife and scoop out with a spoon, this can take a little time but make sure all the bits are taken out.

Now they are ready to stuff.  Mix all the stuffing ingredients together and spoon into the cavity.

Pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into a Dutch oven and warm it. 

Place the artichokes into the oil and pour the wine over and around.

Place the lid on the pot and put into the oven for approximately an hour.

To serve, place an individual artichoke onto a plate with some juice.  Perfect for a light lunch or a fancy starter for dinner.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Homegrown Bok Choy Soup

I am no gardener, it's a sad but true fact. Give me a plant and it will be dead in a week.  I'll overwater it or I'll underwater it.  It will shrivel or turn yellow but either way it will succumb to my complete unawareness and misunderstanding of plants.  I don't want to be this way - in fact I'd love to think of myself as a rather mystical figure who could coax a shrinking violet into bloom.  It's time I admitted that there is only one gardener in our family and that happens to be my husband. He undoubtedly has a green thumb.  It is thanks to his efforts that we enjoyed this spectacular soup.    

In the spring he planted, among other things, bok choy.  As it turned out, it didn't really look like the bok choy one buys at the grocery store and before we knew what had happened - it bolted. "Bolted" is a horticultural term for "sprouted" or to my understanding "left too long before cut."  I loved the idea of our bok choy bolting all over the garden, it seemed a shame to stop it. 

Once cut, I really didn't know what on earth to do with the stuff.  It was past a light stir fry, I didn't think roasting was a good idea and raw was out of the question.  So, after much mulling on problem I decided to turn it into soup - and I'm so glad I did! 

If you don't have an abundance of bolting bok choy charging round your vegetable garden, I really think spinach or asparagus would be a wonderful alternative. 

A couple of bushells of homegrown boy choy - or - a lovely bunch of asparagus (washed and roughly chopped)
3 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
2 tablespoons of butter
salt and pepper
1 onion (diced)
2 sticks of celery (diced)
3-4 new potatoes (skins on, diced)
32 oz of organic chicken stock
1-2 tablespoons of organic heavy cream (optional)

In a large saucepan heat the butter.

Add the onion and sprinkle with salt to avoid burning.  Saute until soft but not yet caramelized.

Add the celery, garlic and potatoes and saute for a further 5 minutes.

Add the chopped boy choy - or whatever greens you are using.

Saute for a minute or so. Add the pepper.

Add the chicken stock.  Bring to the boil and turn down to a simmer.  Partially cover and simmer until the vegetables are cooked through.  This should take no more than 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and cool a little, then pour into the blender and puree. 

Pour back into the saucepan, adjust seasoning and add the cream if using. 

Serve with a garnish of pretty bok choy flowers.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Roasted Chicken with Garden Herbs, Honey and Lemon

With the temperatures soaring I have studiously avoided putting the oven on recently.  A quick saute or pan of boiling water is all the added heat I've been able to take.  There comes a time however when a roast chicken is requested again and in fact craved for.  Not the traditional winter roast with the potatoes, carrots and gravy but a lighter summertime version infused with lemons and pungent herbs from the garden. 

This is wonderful right from the oven or left to cool to room temperature and served with couscous spiced with cumin, a tangy lemon dressing, mixed with raisins, more fresh herbs and toasted pine nuts.  The chicken is intensely lemony.

1 chicken, skin on bones in, cut up (approx 4lbs)

For the marinate;

3-4 lemons, zest and juice
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons of honey
2 -4 cloves of garlic, minced
A huge handful of fresh herbs (I had oregano, basil, mint, rosemary and parsley in the garden)
salt and pepper

To make the marinate mix all the ingredients together. Pour into a large zip lock bag, add the cut up lemons you used for the juice and zest and then chicken pieces. 

Rub the marinate all over the chicken well and leave for at least a 1/2 hour (this can be left overnight, the flavors do deepen the longer it's left).

Heat the oven to 425F.  Place the chicken with the marinate into a roasting pan and roast for at least an hour.  Baste every 15-20 minutes to ensure the beautiful golden color.

When cooked, remove from the oven and place the chicken on a serving dish.  Cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 10-15 minutes. 

Spoon off any grease that may have accumulated in the roasting pan and then pour the juices over the chicken.

Before serving squeeze a little more lemon juice over the chicken and a spinkle of fresh herbs.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tropical Granola

This is my daughter's favorite granola, she's always been a sunbird, loving all things topical from an early age and quite frankly who can blame her.  This is such a fun granola - it's like going to the beach, you can almost imagine being in the Caribbean crunching on banana chips and chewing on papaya chunks. 

Homemade granola is wonderful as you know what you're getting. You can control the sweetness and the saltiness.  I use agave nectar - as I think it works well with the flavors here.  I usually pair this with some Greek yogurt and it's particularly lovely with some chunks of peach or pineapple. 

3 cups of oats
1 cup of roasted unsalted cashews
1 cup of sunflower seeds
1 cup of walnuts
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 pinch of nutmeg
1 pinch of salt
1/4 cup of agave nectar
1/2 cup of organic canola oil

1/2 cup of sesame seeds
1 cup of dried banana chips
1/2 cup of dried unsulphured papaya chunks
1/2 cup of golden sultanas   

Heat the oven to 325F

On a large baking tray pour out the oats, nuts and pumpkin seeds.

In a measuring jug, mix together the vanilla extract, salt, agave nectar and canola oil.  Pour over the oat mixture and mix together using your hands so all the oats, nuts and seeds are coated.

Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes, taking the baking tray out every 10 minutes to mix around so that everything gets evenly browned.

When the granola looks almost golden, add the dried fruit, sesame seeds and banana chips. Don't leave them in for any longer than 5 minutes as the dried fruit will get hard and the banana chips and sesame seeds will burn.

When cooked, remove from the oven and cool completely before storing in a glass jar.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Grilled Tuna with Peach, Mango Salsa

 Fish is so easy to cook and so refreshing - especially twinned with a tropical salsa such as this.  When I first started cooking I was very nervous about fish and I find a lot of people have the same reaction, but really nothing could be simpler.  This is the unusual case of very little time + very little effort = great result!    

I realize I've gone a little fish crazy recently.  This is for two reasons.  Firstly, the daughter who HATES fish is at - wait for it - Seacamp!! Yes that's right, she's studying FISH - just not eating it.  Secondly, I have just discovered a wonderful fish man (not half man and half fish like some sort of slimy X file creature but a man who sells fish) at the most AMAZING prices.  This tuna was $6.99 a pound!!  Who in their right mind sells fresh, beautiful, just pulled from the sea tuna for $6.99?? No one in New York - at least I've never found them.  So here's another fish recipe.  My Seacamp daughter is home soon so there will be little fish in the future. But I'm glad I didn't let this one get away.

For the fish;

Fresh tuna steaks
salt and pepper
1 lime

For the salsa;

1 mango (peeled and diced)
4 peaches (skin left on and diced)
2 limes (zest and juice)
A BIG handful - or two if you like - of fresh cilantro (chopped)
1 jalapeno pepper (finely chopped)
1/4  red onion (finely chopped)

To make the salsa, chop all the ingredients and place in a large bowl. Grate the zest of the limes and squeeze the juice over the chopped vegetables.  Combine and chill in the fridge. YUM.

To grill the steaks I used my stove top griddle pan. 

Lightly coat the steaks with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Heat the pan until REALLY hot and then sear the steaks for about 2 minutes on each side.  This really depends on how raw you like them.  I love them with the griddle marks on the outside but pretty raw on the inside.  But cook them how you like them, just leave them on a little longer if you wish.   

Remove to a platter and squeeze lime juice over them.  Cover with aluminum foil and let rest for at least 5 minutes.

Uncover and heap the salsa over them, sprinkle more cilantro over the whole affair, place tomatoes and more lime wedges around for more liberal squeezing.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Aromatic Lentil Salad

I had a packet of the prettiest du Pry French lentils sitting in my cupboard waiting for just the right occasion. I decided today was just that occasion.  I make lentil soup all the time in the winter but had not actually ever made a lentil salad.  These tiny round treasures are wonderful as they're substantial and "meaty" and are packed with fiber.  They're the blank canvas and it's fun to add the flavors you love.  This is very vegetarian - even vegan - but I do love this with hearty chunks of very fresh salty feta cheese.  This salad is delicious the next day.

For the lentils:

1 1/2 cups of french green lentils (such as du Puy)
3 cups of boiling water
1 bay leaf

For the salad;

1 English cucumber (diced, seeds removed)
1 red pepper (diced)
1 golden pepper (diced)
1 jalapeno pepper (diced) optional
1/2 red onion (very finely chopped)
A good handful of cherry or grape tomatoes (halved)
A large handful (or two) of your favorite fresh herbs (I used mint and parsley here from the garden)
Zest and juice of a lemon

For the dressing;
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
A tablespoon of very finely chopped herbs
Juice and zest of a lemon
Dash of cumin
Approximately 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

To prepare the lentils place in a bowl and pour boiling water over them, cover with a plate and let sit for 15 minutes.  Transfer the lentils and the water into a pot, add a bay leaf, bring to the boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer until the lentils are tender but not mushy. Start checking in 30 minutes.

Meanwhile chop the vegetables and herbs and place into a pretty bowl.

To make the dressing mix together the mustard, vinegar, very finely chopped herbs, salt, pepper, lemon zest and juice and cumin. Whisk in a tablespoon of olive oil a tablespoon at a time.  Check the seasonings and pour over the vegetables.

When the lentils are cooked, drain, discard the bay leaf and add the lentils to the vegetables and dressing.  The lentils will soak up the delicious dressing.  Cool and then add some more lemon juice and some another sprinkling of finely chopped herbs.

The salad can be served at room temperature or chilled.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Spiced Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Corn and Blackbean Salsa

The thing about homemade salsa is that once you've tried it you'll never buy store bought again.  It takes no time and packs such a delightful flavorful punch that anything in a jar pales by comparison.  Plus, there are endless choices, pineapple, peach, mango - and of course you can make it the perfect strength - not too hot, not too mild.  

I seared the tenderloins on my griddle pan (which is my number two favorite kitchen gadget after the Kitchen Aid) and then finished them in the oven until they reached a temperature of 140.  I don't like pork over cooked as it does dry out quickly, the merest hint of pink is the way to go in my opinion. If you like yours cooked a little more just give it an extra few minutes in the oven. 

I had some corn sitting in my fridge and I was drawing a bit of a blank.  As lovely as corn on the cob is, I was looking for something a little more interesting.  Then, during one of those sleepless nights worrying about one of my daughters at camp, I thought of salsa -perfect!  All worries of the child drifted off to the sidelines as I began to build some flavors around the corn.  By 5am I couldn't wait any longer, I slipped out of bed, downstairs into the kitchen where a bleary eyed dog stared at me as if I had finally lost all my marbles.  By 5.30am the salsa was sitting pretty, chilling in the fridge. 

I checked my cellphone only to receive a text message from the day before, it was the daughter at camp, "Mum, a shark swam under my kayak - it was so cool!"

The spice rub for the pork is a nice balance between sweet and heady Middle Eastern spices - which I love.  I try to marinate the meat for a few hours or even overnight, but usually I'm running late and only manage about a half hour which works beautifully.

Spice rub for pork tenderloin;

1 tablespoon of cumin
1 tablespoon of ground coriander
Zest of a lime
Juice of half a lime
1/4 cup of maple syrup

Ingredients for salsa;

4 ears of corn
1 red pepper, very finely chopped
1 green pepper, very finely chopped
1/2 a red onion, very finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, very finely chopped
4 tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
A very generous handful of cilantro, chopped
Juice of 2 limes
1, 15 oz can of black beans, rinsed
1 tablespoon of white vinegar
salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 425F

Mix the ingredients for the rub together, place into a gallon sized zip lock bag and add the tenderloins.  Marinate for anywhere from a half hour to overnight.

To make the salsa you must first cook your corn.  I boiled mine but you could pan fry the kernels or even roast the cobs. 

Slice off the kernels and place in a large bowl.

Then it's just a case of chopping, I tend to get bored easily with this so I enlist some help from one of the girls.  Add all the veggies and herbs to the bowl. 

Drain the can of black beans and add to the bowl.

Squeeze over the lime juice, add the vinegar and check the seasonings.

Leave to chill in the fridge.  The flavors just get better overnight, so make a lot and use the leftovers (if you're lucky enough to have any) the next day.

To cook the pork,  sear on a griddle pan until you have lovely pan marks on them, transfer to a roasting pan and place in the oven until they have reached the desired internal temperature.

Remove to a platter, squeeze over some more lime juice and cover with aluminum foil, let rest for at least 10 minutes.  Slice and serve with the salsa.