Anise Biscuits

I’ve been through The Cookbook Guru‘s book of choice for July and August, The Italian Baker by Carol Field, and put in little pieces of paper to bookmark all the recipes I want to try. The hard part is trying to figure out where to start.

I’ll definitely be making some of the wonderful breads and trying out the Biga (Starter Dough), but last night I felt like baking some biscuits.

These biscuits are wonderful.

They’re very much like Savoiardi biscuits. So light and crispy with a hint of aniseed.

They’re  also very easy to make too. Perfect with a hot cup of tea or coffee. Hard to stop at one….

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You’ll need:-

4 eggs

180g castor sugar

5g vanilla extract

grated zest of 1/2 lemon

200g plain flour

pinch of salt

3g baking powder

5-8g aniseed, crushed

Whisk the eggs and sugar together until very thick, about 8-10 minutes. Mix in the vanilla and lemon zest then gently fold in the sifted flour, salt and baking powder. Now stir in the aniseed.

Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a plain 1cm nozzle and pipe 10cm long strips onto a baking paper lined baking tray.

Bake in a pre-heated 190oC oven for 20 minutes then turn the heat down to 160oC and bake for a further 5-8 minutes until lightly browned and crispy.

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Cool on the trays for 5 minutes then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Personally I’ll be putting in a little more aniseed next time I make these. But then I love the flavour of aniseed.

Light, crispy and easy to make….sounds good to me…

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Enjoy…

Ma’amoul Swirls

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As you near the house all you hear is a familiar sound. The BANG of the Ma’amoul mould being hit on the edge of the table. Yep, it must be nearly Easter and Mum and Dad are elbow deep in Ma’amoul biscuit dough. On one side there is a big bowl of date filling and on the other a bowl of crushed walnut and rose water. The smell of melted ghee wafts out the kitchen and invades your nostrils. Only a few more steps and you’ll be amid the organized chaos and within arms reach of this years batch of Ma’amoul.

And then you see them….

Mounds of lightly browned date or walnut filled biscuits, still slightly warm and definitely too good to just stand around and look at so you make a run for them. But no…. you’re forced back by the  ‘DON”T YOU TOUCH THOSE’ yelled out in unison by both Mum and Dad…

I’d love to say that is a memory of our childhood but the truth is it happens still, every year.

These little gems are quite different to the Ma’amoul we wait for every Easter. My sister makes something very similar and I could sit and eat a whole plate of them with a cup of tea or coffee.

Let me tell you how I made Ma’amoul Swirls from this months The Cookbook Guru‘s beautiful book of choice, Saha by Greg and Lucy Malouf.

For the filling you’ll need:-

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200g fresh dates, pitted and chopped

4 Tblsp water

1 Tblsp castor sugar

1 Tblsp Kahlua (which I didn’t have so I used Dranbuie)

Melt the sugar in the water over a low heat then add the dates, stir well and cover. Leave for four or five minutes to soften then take off the heat and stir in the Kahlua. Leave to cool slightly then blitz in a food processor until smooth. Leave to cool.

For the Biscuit dough:-

270g plain flour

150g butter

30g icing sugar

20ml olive oil

45ml milk

Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs then stir in the sugar then add the milk and oil and work into a smooth dough.

On a floured bench, roll out the dough to a large rectangle, about 3mm thick, and spread the filling over the top evenly leaving a small margin on one of the long sides.

Now roll into a long sausage making sure to seal the edge well. Chill in the fridge for about an hour (this helps with the cutting).IMG_1512

Pre heat the oven to 160oC. Slice the biscuit log on the diagonal about 1cm thick and place them on a baking paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes then turn the heat down to 140oC and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Cool on wire racks.

The result…melt in the mouth biscuits. Absolutely delicious….

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My sister’s version is rolled in sesame seeds. I’ll have to try that next time.

Enjoy…

Flat Chicken with Broad Bean Crush

Another recipe from Greg and Lucy Malouf’s recipe book Saha  for this months The Cookbook Guru.

The idea of the broad bean crush was too enticing to pass up, especially considering broad beans are currently in season and plentiful here.

When we were kids (and there is 7 of us) Dad used to go to the fruit market out at Flemington on Saturday mornings and come back with boxes and bags of fresh fruit and vegetables. He would unload the car, leaving everything in the tiny alcove near the front door and we would go back and forth carrying boxes to the kitchen where my mum would start to organise things for storage.

As the box of broad beans was being carried into the house we would reach in as it went past and grab a pod or two and begin to pod and peel the beans as we continued to cart fruit and veg into the house. What a memory that is.

Well, I don’t buy boxes of broad beans but I did buy a bagful (some for the recipe, some for me to munch on while I tackled the recipe). Mmmm… so fresh…

I have to admit I was a little disappointed with this particular recipe though. It had wonderful ingredients, all the makings of a great dish but the flavour didn’t really do much to enhance the meal. In fact I found the broad bean crush to be a little bitter. It did look amazing though…

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I used a free range chicken, cut out the back bone, then with the breast side up I pressed down with my hand to flatten it.

Next I seasoned the chicken well with salt, pepper, cinnamon, cumin, sumac and some sweet paprika. I lay it on a couple of sliced potatoes and a sliced onion then popped it in a preheated 200oC oven for about 45 minutes. (The recipe calls for 2 x 500g chickens and is grilled instead of baked but the chicken I got was 1.5kg and was not going to fit under my grill, so I baked it on the top shelf in the oven.)

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For the broad bean crush:-

1 clove of garlic, crushed

pinch of salt

125g broad beans, podded and peeled

1 shallot, finely diced

1/4 cup coriander leaves, finely chopped

50ml extra virgin olive oil

pinch cayenne pepper

freshly ground black pepper

juice of 1 lemon

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Pound the garlic and salt together in a mortar and pestle until you have a smooth paste, then gradually add the rest of the ingredients while pounding them all together until you get a sludgy mix. (You can always put everything into a blender or food processor)

This is where I tasted the mix and found it wasn’t quite to my likings so I added in a teaspoon of brown sugar in the hope of masking the bitterness, and it did help.

Once the chicken is cooked, smear the broad bean mix over it then pop it back into the oven for about 5 minutes to cook the beans and garlic a little.

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I served the chicken pieces with the potato and onion from the baking dish and a fresh garden salad.

Sorry to say I don’t know that I would make the broad bean crush again but I won’t be stopped from eating fresh broad beans straight out of the pod or digging into a plate of broad beans and rice Riz ib Fool. Yum….

Pickled Turnip

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Wow. It sure has been a while since I’ve posted on The Cookbook Guru but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been keeping up with all the contributions that have been added over the past couple of months. It’s always great to see how recipes are interpreted and shared.

For October we’ve been offered Saha by Greg and Lucy Malouf as The Cookbook Guru’s book of the month.

What an amazing book. A kind of modern twist on some of the foods I grew up on. I’m looking forward to a lot of the recipes in this book and though I can say I will try to follow the recipes as they are written, you and I both know I won’t. For instance:

Pickled Turnips

4 turnips

1 beetroot

2 1/2 Tblsp salt

boiling water

white vinegar

(The recipe also calls for peppercorns, thyme and bay leaves but instead I added a few fresh red chillis which is the way my mother makes them.)

IMG_1450 Trim and wash the turnips and beetroot. Cut them in half then in wedges or batons then mix them together and place them in a sterilized jar

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Dissolve the salt in about 500ml boiling water.

Fill 1/3 of the jar with vinegar then top up with salted water to cover the turnips. Seal and turn the jar upside down a couple of times to make sure everything is mixed.

Store in a cupboard for about 5-7 days to allow the turnips to pickle. Once opened store in the fridge.IMG_1453IMG_1455

We serve these pickles as part of a mezza or as an accompaniment to just about any savoury dish. I love them best in a falafel roll. Yum.

As always…

Enjoy…

Spicy Tomato Soup

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I do try to follow a recipe as it is written, I really do, but the way I see it is a recipe is there as a guideline or idea. You take that idea into your kitchen and let it inspire you to cook something magnificent.

Sometimes that recipe is just what your looking for, except for that one ingredient that you don’t like or don’t have handy. 

For example, I don’t like cooked capsicum. I can easily eat a fresh capsicum and love it but once you add heat to the capsicum, I can’t eat it. Don’t judge me on that, every one has their own little quirks. I just leave it out.

This months The Cookbook Guru‘s chosen book is Neil Perry‘s – The Food I Love and Spicy Tomato Soup was exactly what we felt like for dinner.

Now, I didn’t make any major changes to the recipe, I added a little extra chilli and garlic, and didn’t have any smoked paprika so put in hot paprika and a little cayenne pepper, and of course  some fennel seeds.

The recipe does call for a herby, garlicky paste but it is well worth that little extra effort.

Here’s my version of Neil’s Spicy Tomato Soup:-

For the paste:-

4 cloves garlic – roughly chopped

1/2 red onion – roughly chopped

1 handful flat-leaf parsley

1 handful coriander leaves

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp tumeric

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

Throw everything in a food processor with a couple tablespoons of water and puree. Set aside.

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For the soup:-

2 Tbls olive oil

2 ripe tomatoes – diced

1x400g can diced tomato

2 celery stalks – diced

1 small carrot – diced

1/2 Tbls sherry or red wine vinegar

1 tsp sugar 

salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a medium saucepan and add the celery, carrot and herb paste. Cook for a few minutes, stirring it often so it doesn’t burn, then add the diced tomato, canned tomato, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper and 300ml water. Bring to the boil, lower heat and let simmer,covered, for about an hour.

You can serve it as is, chunky style or you can puree it so you get a thick and smooth soup.

 I served it with a spoonful of Greek yoghurt, a generous sprinkle of chopped fresh coriander leaves and some fresh homemade bread.IMG_1308

Let’s Call it a Fruit Loaf.

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I’m a sucker for a good fruit bread.

On our recent travels down the south coast of NSW we stopped for a coffee and something to eat at the marvellous Heritage Bakery  in Milton. The array of breads and pastries and cakes was magnificent.

I limited myself to only one loaf of something and that something was a fig and cranberry sour dough bread. What a choice it was. It was one of the nicest fruit breads I’ve had in a very long time. Big juicy pieces of fig and little tart cranberries. It was perfect.

No, I haven’t got a recipe for that dreamy fruit loaf, yet…. but I’ll share when I do…

I found this recipe in Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery, which is The Cookbook Guru‘s book of the month.

It’s called Northumbrian Harvest Tea Cake, but once you look at the recipe it’s just a fancy name for Fruit Loaf.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious, but these days we call it fruit loaf and here’s a simple version of the recipe.

For 1 big loaf you’ll need:-

450g bakers’ Flour

1/2 tsp salt

30g castor sugar

15g dried yeast

150g warm milk

75g warm water

60g butter – melted

1 egg – lightly beaten

40g currants

1 tsp mixed spice or nutmeg

 

In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, sugar, yeast, currants and mixed spice.

In a small bowl or jug mix the milk, water and butter together. Make sure it is still warm otherwise the yeast won’t work, then pour into the flour mix with the egg.

Mix until it comes together then tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 6 – 8 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Now tip the dough back out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes then divide into three equal pieces.

Roll the pieces into a long thin sausage shapes the same length and lay them side by side. Pinch the tops together firmly then braid the lengths.

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Leave on a baking paper lined baking tray in a warm place, loosely covered, for about 40 – 45 minutes.

Bake in a hot 220oC oven for 15 minutes then I found I had to turn the loaf over and cook for another 5 minutes to cook the underside till brown.

Leave to cool for a few minutes before ripping into chunks and devouring.

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At least that’s how it went in our house…

Please Enjoy…

 

 

 

A Bloomer Loaf or Wholemeal Loaf.

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It was wonderful going for a walk this morning with my sister. The sun was warm but the air had a chill in it. Winter is most definitely here.
Time for warm comfort foods like soups and casseroles and roasts. I had some beef spare ribs in the freezer and today called for a casserole with the ribs and lots of carrots and onions and mushrooms.
The perfect accompaniment to this dish is fresh made bread. Yum.
Elizabeth David’s book English Bread and Yeast Cookery  is The Cookbook Guru‘s book of the month. How handy is that?
While the casserole is cooking away in the oven, warming up the the house – ahhh,  I set about looking for a recipe from the book for a simple loaf.
Well the recipe in the book includes lots of information and a few extra steps that could make the reader think “this is way too involved, I don’t really want to do all that.”  So I’ll use the ingredients and amounts from the book, but I’ll tell you how I made it, which was a lot more straight forward…

For 1 big loaf you’ll need:-
450g wholemeal flour
120g bakers or strong flour
15g dried yeast
20g salt
200g warm milk mixed with 200g warm water (400g total)

In a large bowl mix together the flours, salt and dried yeast. Pour in the milk and water and mix. Once all the ingredients are mixed well, tip it all out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 – 7 minutes until smooth and elastic.
Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave for 2 hours in a warm place.
After 2 hours tip the dough out onto the bench top and knead it for 3 – 4 minutes then put it back into the bowl, cover and leave for an hour. IMG_1254 Now, knead the dough again for 3 – 4 minutes, then shape into a short, thick loaf. IMG_1255 Loosely cover and leave to rise for about 30 minutes. With a sharp knife, make a few deep slashes across the top then sprinkle a little water. IMG_1257 Bake for 20 minutes at 230oC, then turn the heat down to 200oC and bake for another 15 – 20 minutes or until it sounds hollow when you tap it underneath.

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(If the underside is still soft, turn the bread upside down and let it cook for another 5 – 6 minutes.)

The bread turned out really fluffy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. I think the only change I’d make to the ingredients is decreasing the amount of salt by half. It was a little too salty  but overall a great bread to go with the casserole.

Please Enjoy…

Chelsea Buns

I love working with yeast. Mixing and kneading and shaping. The way the dough feels in my hands. It’s very therapeutic. And don’t get me started on the smell of baking bread. It fills the whole house with calm and warmth.
Once you have your basic bread recipe you can do so much with it. Adding different flavourings and seeds or herbs.
I still haven’t gotten into the sourdough side of things though. A baker friend told me how to get a starter dough going, how to feed it and use it but it just didn’t work for me. Perhaps I’ll try again some day. In fact, I definitely will.
In the mean time, I’ve been going through this months The Cookbook Guru‘s book of choice – Elizabeth David‘s English Bread and Yeast Cookery. There are lots of recipes that take my interest in this book and because there is lots of bread already floating around the house at the moment, I thought I’d start with something sweet.
Chelsea Buns are something I have loved for as long as I can remember so why not take this opportunity to try my hand at making them?

First batch didn’t work out too brilliantly. I had a hard time getting the dough to rise the first time, so I gave up and put it in the fridge (it was getting pretty late in the evening by the time I did give up though) The next morning I took it out and left it on the bench for an hour to come to room temperature.

It’s winter here and our place seems to get really cold so that probably didn’t help with the proving. Anyway, I gave the dough another knead and continued with the recipe. The second prove worked better and the final product turned out okay except I over cooked them.

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Oops. My bad.

Sooooo…

After distributing my near failed first batch of Chelsea Buns to my family I started another batch….

 

To make 12 Chelsea Buns I used:-

Dough:-

275g bakers flour

3g salt

20g castor sugar

115g butter cut into small cubes

80g milk

8g dried yeast

1 egg

Filling:-

40g butter – softened

40g brown sugar

5g mixed spice

50g currants

In a small bowl mix together the butter, sugar and spice until well combined. Set aside.

Glaze:-

1/2 Tbls milk

1 Tbls castor sugar

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Heat the milk to just warm and add the yeast giving it a little stir. Set aside for a few minutes. It should come up all frothy. That means your yeast is alive. Hooray.

In a bowl mix together the flour, salt and sugar. Rub in the butter then pour in the milk and yeast. Mix together to form a sticky dough then tip out onto a lightly floured bench top and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put back in the bowl, cover and leave in a warm place until doubled in size. It could take and hour, it could take two hours (or, like my first attempt, it could not rise at all but lets not get into that.)

Once it has risen, turn out onto a bench top and give it another knead for a minute or two minutes then roll it out into a rectangle 20cm x 30cm.

Spread with the butter and sugar mix and sprinkle the currants  evenly on top.IMG_1223

Take one of the shorter ends and fold it 3/4 over the rest of the dough and then bring the other end over to cover this.IMG_1243

IMG_1244Now turn the whole thing a quarter turn so that the long side is closest to you. (Gee, I hope that made some sense.)

Carefully roll out again to the original size rectangle (20 x 30 cm)

Now roll the dough tightly into a sausage shape starting from the long sides.IMG_1226

Phew, glad that’s over….

Cut into 12 equal pieces and place them a little apart on a baking paper lined baking tray and flatten slightly with your hand.

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Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for 45 minutes to rise (or until doubled in size)

When ready, bake in a 210oC oven for 15 minutes until lovely and brown.

Heat the milk and sugar for the glaze until the sugar has melted and brush over the warm buns.

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Then they’re ready…

Let them cool down slightly before gorging on them (though I didn’t). It’s just good manners right???

Yay for batch number two…

Enjoy…

 

 

 

Ataif – Walnut Stuffed Pancakes with Rose Water Syrup.

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Happy to have just made it in for this months The Cookbook Guru book of the month – The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden.

Okay, this one was really hard to get a hold of but persistence pays off.  I ordered it from one library who ordered it in from another library and finally…..

My thought was to go straight to the sweets section and make something from there. I’ll have a better look at the rest of the book a little later.

My mum and I have been making something very similar to these little stuffed pancakes for years and because the only time I follow recipes to the T is when I’m at work, I sort of combined the two recipes and ended up with these…

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Light pancakes with a sweet walnut and cinnamon filling with just a hint of rose water. I like them as they are but for the sweet tooth the syrup is thick, sweet and sticky.

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This recipe will make about 30 Ataif.

For the pancake batter:-

1 1/2 tsp dry yeast

1 tsp sugar

1 3/4 cups lukewarm water

1 1/3 cups plain flour

pinch of salt

In a bowl mix together the yeast, sugar, flour and salt. Add the water and use a whisk to mix it all together making sure there are no lumps of flour left. Cover with plastic wrap and leave for an hour in a warm spot until it’s all frothy. Give it a good whisk.

Lightly wipe a non-stick fry-pan with a little oil and put over a medium-high heat. When it’s hot pour in tablespoons of the batter a few cm apart so they don’t touch. You’ll only be cooking one side of the pancake. It’s ready when the top is full of little holes and it’s lost it whiteness. If you let it dry out too much you won’t be able to get the edges to stick together.

Place on a plate and continue cooking the rest of the pancakes.

For the Walnut Filling:-

120g shelled walnut pieces

50g brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp rose water

Put the walnuts, sugar and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until very fine. Add the rose water and give it another quick mix and its ready.

For the Syrup:-

75g water

150g white sugar

2 tsp lemon juice

1 star anise

2 Tbls rose water

Stir the water, sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan until the sugar melts, add the star anise and bring to the boil without stirring. Let it boil for 10 minutes until its thick and coats the back of a spoon. Stir in the rose water then let it cool.

To Assemble:-

Take one pancake, put a 1/2 – 3/4 tsp of the filling in the centre. Fold in half and close by pinching the edges with your fingers.

Arrange on a serving dish with the syrup in a little bowl or glass.

Sound like  a big job but really its just pancakes. Anyway, every time I’ve made these people always come back for more so they’re worth the effort.

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Enjoy…

Crushed Olive Oil Potatoes and Baked Flathead with mint and Caper Dressing

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This months The Cookbook Guru book of choice is Karen Martini’s Cooking at Home. Delicious recipes made easy.

I couldn’t decide which recipe I wanted to make so I let my shopping expedition decide and the flathead with an amazing mint, parsley and caper dressing got the all clear. The flathead in the local seafood shop window looked too good to pass up. Not to mention the herbs in the garden are growing madly and need to be harvested and eaten. Good thing we love fresh herbs.

For the mint and caper dressing mix together:-

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

1/4 cup finely chopped mint

2 Tbls finely chopped capers

1 finely chopped gherkin

1 finely grated clove garlic

1 finely chopped green chilli

2 Tbls finely chopped red onion

1 Tbls finely grated lemon zest

2 Tbls lemon juice

3 Tbls olive oil

1 Tbls sherry or red wine vinegar

freshly ground black pepper

Mix really well and set aside for the flavours to develop.

Boil up 2 desiree potatoes. Drain them well and crush them with a fork. Stir in 2 Tbls finely chopped red onion, 3 Tblsp olive oil and a little salt and pepper. (The onion is optional, mum use to do this with potato all the time)

Preheat oven to 220oC. Place the fish on a baking paper lined baking tray and drizzle with a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and bake for 7 – 10 minutes (depending on how thick the fish is)

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To serve put some of the potato on a plate. Top with the fish and dressing.

The dish needed a little more colour so I also served a tomato, onion and purslane  salsa on the side.

Ended up being a delicious and disgustingly healthy dinner that took hardly no time to prepare. What more could one ask for?

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Try it and enjoy…