Antonia Landi

Posts Tagged ‘easy’

Real spaghetti carbonara – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on November 6, 2011 at 1:21 am


If you think you’ve had this dish before, think again. Carbonara just happens to be one of the most misunderstood Italian dishes in the world. So much so, that most sauces and recipes widely available have little in common with the original. Real carbonara is deliciously creamy and oh so moreish – and it can be done in just ten minutes.

You will notice from my recipe that there is no cream involved in this dish – that’s right, not even a single drop of cream. ‘But, how else would I be able to make a creamy sauce?’ I hear you say. And here’s where I let you in on the secret of first class carbonara – use eggs. Do you remember how we made custard last week? Heat the milk, stir in the eggs and let it thicken. Well this is a similar concept. Again, the last thing you’ll want to do is to make the eggs coagulate. In other words, solid bits are not allowed. As long as you stick to my instructions, you’ll get perfect carbonara, every time. And what a delight it is to eat!

Whenever I explain to people how to make authentic carbonara, most of them look at me with a disgusted look in their face. Barely cooked eggs? Are you mental? But trust me, once you’ve tried it you’ll never go back to those horribly gelatinous white sauces that you can buy in a supermarket. The combination of the egg and the cheese, which will just slowly melt into the sauce, delivers such a great result that will leave you with a plateful of pasta finely coated in the simplest, and quite frankly, greatest sauce for a satisfying midweek meal. And if on your way to carbonara heaven you encounter any sceptics just ask them this: Do you eat custard? Good! IT’S THE SAME THING.

Feeds 2:

180g Spaghetti (I use DeCecco)

1 pack cubed pancetta (equivalent to approx 100g)

Generous handful of grated pecorino Romano

Knob of butter (optional)

2 fresh eggs

2 garlic cloves

Plenty black pepper (salt is optional, as the pancetta and pecorino are quite salty themselves)

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

And finally, have a look at these great links for inspiration and information.

I don’t know about you but I love to find out where a dish comes from! I won’t spoil anything, so here’s a great link about carbonara and its origins.

For this recipe you’ll want to get the freshest eggs possible. If you’re not sure just how fresh your eggs are, take a look at this site, which should help you out.

And finally, here’s an article about one of my favourite rant subjects! Do you think you know Italian food? Check out this link to find out!

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.


Snow White’s poisoned apple – Better than Toast

In Entertainment, Food, Student life on October 27, 2011 at 9:27 pm



For ages I didn’t know what to cook for this week’s recipe – I knew I wanted to make something for Halloween, but what? Pumpkin pie? Pumpkin bread? Pumpkin cake? My final recipe turned out to be a lot less orange than expected…

Apart from my get-up, this recipe was actually quite scary to make. Ever since messing up my first batch of custard I have an irrational fear of messing it up again. So I stand by the stove, stirring until my arm falls off and carefully watching the custard’s every move. For a less traumatic experience, just stick to the recipe! A bain-marie is pretty much the safest way of making custard – by only gradually adding heat to the mixture the chances of it turning into scrambled eggs is virtually zero. If you are adding corn flour to the mix make sure you sift it – no one likes clumpy custard! Finally, enjoy watching your custard thicken. For ages nothing will happen and you start having doubts whether you’re doing things right, but when things start to get creamy, you suddenly realize that you just made your first delicious bowl of homemade custard. How British!

Apple-wise, make sure to choose a variety that is firm cooking and lends itself to baking. I used red delicious because of their taste and colour, but have a look at the links below for more inspiration. Some people just core the apple without first cutting the top off – it’s up to you what you go for, I just prefer my apples with a hat! When coring, make sure that you remove all inedible parts of the apple (e.g. seeds etc) and don’t go too far down! It is easy to slip with your spoon and accidentally break your apple, so I would suggest buying one or two more, just in case.

You could replace the apple juice in the recipe with plain water if you wanted to, the juice is just there to make sure that the bottoms of the apples don’t burn to the oven dish. And if you want to go budget, vanilla essence works just as fine as actual pods, and check the baking aisle for cheaper raisins!


Feeds 3:

For the apples:

3 firm-cooking red apples (I used red delicious)

2 handfuls of dried fruits & pecans

2 tbsp syrup

150 ml apple juice


For the custard:

150 ml milk

150 ml single cream

1 vanilla pod

3-4 egg yolks (depending on size)

Green food colouring

Corn flour (optional)

Bake apples for approx 30-40 minutes. Make custard in the meantime!

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

And finally, have a look at these great links for inspiration and information.


Custard-related science anyone? This informative website holds all the custard facts your heart could desire!

You can’t serve this dish without proper Halloween decoration! Here are some great ideas on how to make your own!

Finally, have you ever wondered what the differences between different kinds of apples are? I know I have! This website has an extensive list of apple varieties, their look, taste and texture. And with its handy sidebar you can easily navigate the hundreds of apples!


Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Thai inspired vegan stir fry – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on October 19, 2011 at 5:39 pm


Well, winter is finally here. I have already turned my heating on and I don’t leave the house without a scarf anymore. I think it’s time for some comfort food!

As the temperature drops I have noticed myself grabbing far too easily for those naughty snacks we all know too well. Admittedly, a baked potato is far more appealing in this kind of weather than a salad, and hoarding food reserves (in your belly!) to survive the winter months is just a natural reaction to the cold. But why does comfort food have to be so bad for you? A dish doesn’t automatically have to be bad for your waistline in order to be comforting. That’s what I thought when I came up with today’s recipe. A hot, fragrant and spicy stir-fry that is not only vegan, but gluten free too!

If you’ve never cooked with rice noodles before, you’ll be in for a treat. They work fantastically well with coconut milk and are ridiculously easy to prepare. There are two kinds of rice noodles available in supermarkets: dried ones, that come in a packet similar to that of spaghetti, and fresh, or pre-soaked ones. The latter you can use straight out of the pack – just add them to your pan, but the dried ones you will have to soak in water for a couple of minutes before you can cook with them. It’s super easy; just follow the instructions on the pack and you’ll be ready to go. Which thickness you go for in the end is completely up to you – I used ribbon noodles, but any other ones work just as well.
If you want to take your stir-fry further, add some fresh coriander to your dish and fry the ingredients in sesame oil. Do add some kaffir lime leaves if you can find them – I had no luck in my local supermarket, but I hear that they like to hide in the seasoning aisle!

Finally, if you’re really desperate for some flesh between your teeth there are a variety of ingredients you can add. I would suggest using prawns, but you could use chicken or pork if you wanted to.

Feeds 2:

1 can coconut milk

1 tin bamboo shoots & water chestnuts

100g shiitake mushrooms

1 pack rice noodles (equal to 300g)

2 sticks lemongrass

2 spring onions

1 piece fresh ginger, grated (about thumb-length)

2 garlic cloves

1 green chilli (careful, these are hot! Wash your hands immediately after chopping! De-seed for a milder experience)

Pinch of vegetable stock cube, crumbled (optional)

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

And finally, have a look at these great links for inspiration and information.

The first time I ever attempted to cook a Thai dish, nobody told me what to do with the lemongrass. If you are still unsure about how to prepare it, have a look at this very helpful video! Sadly, our lemongrass isn’t nearly that tall.

In the mood for some more Thai food or just bought too many ingredients? Here is an easy recipe for green curry paste! You will have most of the ingredients already at hand, and don’t panic if you can’t find a particular spice/root/herb – just get whatever you can find and make the most of it.

If you are anything like me, you just can’t stay away from coconut milk. Its creamy goodness is so versatile and most of all, delicious! This website is packed with ideas for tasty coconut milk smoothies – can I hear a blender whizzing?


Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Polenta & sausages with seasonal mushrooms in a red wine sauce

In Food, Student life on October 5, 2011 at 11:42 am

Picture: Antonia Landi

The nights are getting longer and the days are getting colder and this can only mean one thing – it’s Mushroom season!

If you are a regular vegetable buyer you will have spotted them already – strange looking mushrooms in all shapes, sizes and colours. They are in supermarkets, local organic food stores, even in the park! The mushroom is taking over and I couldn’t be happier. The great thing about this season is that it really is unique – only from now until November we will have deliciously different mushrooms in abundance, and then they will all be gone again. I say to hell with the common closed-cap mushroom, let the (relatively short-lived) revolution begin!

Up here in Scotland we can definitely feel the cold coming to get us, and that got me thinking about comfort food. I love nothing more than a steaming plateful of something filling to really appreciate the season. The British are very good at making lovely comforting dishes, and I immediately thought about bangers and mash. But while there is absolutely nothing wrong with that dish, I wanted to make something a bit more special. I realise that even just the name of today’s recipe might be a bit intimidating, but I hope the video will show just how easy it is to prepare this meal. And besides, anything with the words ‘seasonal’ and ‘red wine sauce’ in its description is fancy enough to impress your date!

Now, for those who have never tried polenta before, the best way to describe it is ‘corn porridge’. That might not sound incredibly appetising, but polenta is a great substitute for mash, and stunningly versatile. It is made of ground cornmeal, and its preparation traditionally involves hours and hours of stirring. Luckily for us, there is something called ‘instant polenta’ which is just as tasty, and you needn’t stir for more than 5 minutes. Since polenta is in itself quite plain, it is a great vessel for other flavours. It is by far at its best with some Gorgonzola stirred in – the creamy, yet sharp taste of the Gorgonzola melted into polenta is simply divine. Last but not least choose a full-bodied red wine for your sauce as this will go wonderfully with your venison – and stay away from cooking wines!

Feeds 2:

100g polenta

6 coarse-cut sausages (I used venison sausages)

200g seasonal mushrooms (I used girolle, pied bleu and brown beech mushrooms)

1/3 sliced onion

1 glass of wine (approx 175ml)

1 handful grated hard cheese, such as parmiggiano reggiano

Knob of butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the polenta for between 1-5 minutes, depending on whether you want it soft, like mash, or firm, so that you could cut it with a knife.

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

And finally, have a look at these great links for inspiration and information.

If you are a fan of polenta, make twice as much and then use the leftovers in some of these tasty recipes! From pan-frying it to sticking it in the oven, there is nothing polenta can’t handle.

Mushroom season is upon us but you can’t distinguish an oyster from a morel? Then this website should help! Not only does this site have a wonderful array of pictures of popular mushrooms, it also tells you what you can do with them.

And if you’re feeling especially brave, why not go into the woods yourself? This article tells you all about mushroom picking – just make sure you know what you’re cooking!


Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Homemade fish fingers & potato salad – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on September 27, 2011 at 2:27 pm


Hey guys! Do you like fish sticks? Good! Because with this tutorial you can make your own in no time!

Fish fingers are a staple of comfort food. They are quick and easy to make and even people who don’t like fish will usually eat them. And since fish fingers have had a lot of bad press about what’s in them, this way you know exactly what goes in them – delicious fish, and nothing else. I have used Pollock for my recipe today for three good reasons. It is cheaper than both Haddock and Cod; it can be sustainably sourced in British waters and it’s actually the main ingredient for most commercial fish fingers anyway! It is a firm white fish, and therefore perfect for our recipe. If you would like to make a more grown up version, you can use salmon instead of Pollock, and serve with a wedge of lemon.

When choosing a side for today’s recipe it was difficult to get away from the traditional ‘fish and chips’ but I find that one fried component is more than enough for any plate, so I opted for a potato salad instead. Now the deal with potato salad is this: it’s either well made or badly made. A lot of potato salads you get in supermarkets or dodgy restaurants are too starchy and thick with mayo, with little flavour to speak of. To avoid this, use a firm cooking potato, such as Charlotte, Maris Peer or Nicola, and add crème fraîche to your mayo to make the whole thing less heavy. For extra flavour I have added some spring onions and capers – spring onions for the freshness and capers to deliver that much needed kick.

Feeds 2:

For the fish fingers:

250g Pollock

50g flour

2 eggs

Approx 100g breadcrumbs

Vegetable oil

Salt and pepper to taste

For the potato salad:

Approx 300g potatoes (equivalent to 8 small potatoes)

2 tbsp mayonnaise

2tbsp crème fraîche

2 spring onions

1-2 tsp capers in vinegar

Salt, pepper and herbs to taste

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

And finally, have a look at these great links for inspiration and information.

Made too many fish fingers? Why not go for a fish finger sandwich! This recipe is a great way to use up any leftover fish fingers in a tasty sandwich.

When cooking with fish it is extremely important to realise how the fishing industry works and what damage over-fishing can do. Please do visit this website and join Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s fish fight. Hugh is one of my favourite food writers, and this website is full of great ideas and recipes on how to be a more responsible cook.

And finally, here is a great website filled with everything you need to know about fish. What they look like, what they taste like, and what you can do with them. A fun and good-looking resource for all your fishy needs!

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Tiramisù – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on September 20, 2011 at 7:27 pm



You can’t deny the fact that you’re back at uni now, Christmas holidays are still a world away, the weather’s getting worse and all you really want is a little pick me up to get you through the week… And what better way to cheer yourself up than a little tiramisù!

Tiramisù is the staple of any Italian restaurant’s dessert menu, even though its origins are not quite clear. With its lovely medley of mild mascarpone, strong coffee and a hint of chocolate, it is easy to see why it’s literally called ‘pick me up’! Some people prefer it with alcohol, some people add subtle flavours along the way – this version is the plainest and simplest possible. This way, you can enjoy it as it is, or really make it your own by playing around with various flavours. If you would like your tiramisù to be a bit boozy, try adding a bit of rum or amaretto – Marsala wine (which is similar to port) is the standard, but any of these will go. Don’t add too much alcohol to your recipe – I would suggest a swig or a tablespoon to be precise. Tiramisù is a rather delicate dessert, despite its strong coffee, so make sure you don’t use anything too overpowering.

Apart from the savoiardi (which are just ladyfingers or ‘sponge fingers’) the coffee is the star of this dessert. The higher quality your coffee is, the better your dessert will taste. Now, I know that we are all students here but please refrain from using filtered or even instant coffee. It will taste horrible, and we both know it. You don’t need to have a pump espresso maker to make good coffee at home. You can get a small coffee machine for the hob, such as the moka express by Bialetti, or if this is just a one off, go down your local coffee shop for some espresso shots.

If you’re not keen on the idea of having coffee, you can try and substitute the coffee for some chocolate milk. I would suggest avoiding overly sweet brands as this could affect the overall sweetness of the dessert. This is also a good alternative for a children’s version of tiramisù. Finally, if you want to add subtle flavours such as vanilla or a hint of orange, do so in the mascarpone. Simply add the seeds of a vanilla pod or some grated orange peel into the mascarpone and you will be surprised to see how far just a little tweaking can take you.


Feeds 6-8 (enough for a 25x25cm dish or equivalent)

500g mascarpone

5 egg yolks

50g sugar

1 pack savoiardi (200g)

approx 500ml espresso or very strong coffee

cocoa to dust

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Pizza – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on September 14, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Picture: Useful Times

What is round, Italian and delicious? Well, Pizza of course! With this simple recipe you won’t have to dread making your own dough anymore – there are just a few simple steps to pizza perfection!

Growing up in an Italian household, it is needless to say that our pizza was never shop bought. But unfortunately not everyone’s as lucky as I am! While I do enjoy the occasional supermarket pizza myself, it is so much more rewarding to make your own pizza entirely from scratch. By working the dough and kneading it with your hands you can really get a feel for creating your own food. It is a fantastic experience and will lead to many others. Pizza is just about the simplest kind of dough you can make – and once you’ve mastered the basics, a whole new world opens up for you. From pastry to cakes to fantastic real homemade bread, food always tastes infinitely better if you’ve made it yourself.

Pizza of course is the unrivalled queen of student food – if you think that following this recipe won’t be nearly as quick and easy as simply chucking a soggy supermarket pizza in the oven, let me convince you otherwise. The key to any good cooking experience is preparation. From simply preparing all your ingredients in the right amounts beforehand, to making the dough in big batches and freezing it for later, as long as you’re prepared, this will be as easy as you want it to be.

The really great thing about pizza is that it’s so versatile. There is literally nothing you can’t put on it – if you’re a fan of American style pizzas, opt for a deep oven dish and smother in barbecue sauce before adding some meat and cheese of your choice – if you like it veggie and light, load your pizza with delicious vegetables such as peppers, mushrooms and onion – if you have a taste for the exquisite, opt for goat’s cheese instead of regular cheese, or garnish your pizza with thin slices of prosciutto di Parma, then add a handful of rocket and shavings of parmiggiano reggiano before serving. You see? There is really something for any taste.

A note about rising: To let your dough rise, you should keep it in a reasonably warm and sheltered place, away from any drafts. There are big debates about how long pizza dough should rise – some pizzaioli leave the dough to rise for up to 48 hours! I would generally suggest a minimum of 2 hours. Use this to your advantage! Prepare your dough a few hours before your guests arrive, and don’t worry if you forget about it – the longer, the better. Rising times can change with room temperature and location, but if your dough has doubled in size, you should be good to go.

Makes two 14’’ thin crust pizzas:

500g tipo 00 flour, plus extra for dusting

7g dried yeast (equivalent to one sachet)

Approx 320ml lukewarm water


For the tomato base use one can of chopped tomatoes and 1-2 tbsp of tomato concentrate. Season with salt, pepper and herbs of your choice. Alternatively use barbecue sauce or leave plain, in which case you may drizzle some olive oil on your base before sprinkling some sea salt over it.

Bake on a high heat (careful not to burn anything) for approx 15-20 minutes

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Cat treats – Better than Toast

In Animals, Food on September 5, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Picture: The Useful Times


Have you ever wondered how they make cat treats? What do they taste like, what’s really in it? Well fear no more! With this simple and quick recipe you can make cheap and tasty cat treats at the touch of a paw.

Here in Scotland it’s the start of Scottish Animal Week, and to support the SSPCA and all the great things they do for animals I wanted to make something special. From re-homing cats, taking care of abandoned dogs, to looking after injured animals, the SSPCA is a great charity to support. Unlike the RSPCA, it doesn’t get government funding, so they really need all the help they can find. I donate £3 a month to the SSPCA and I hardly even notice it leaving my bank account. It’s a very small sum, so small that even a student can afford it!

But enough about charity. Today’s recipe is really as simple as it could get. Simply take one tasty thing, and mix it with two floury things and bake. I chose mackrel this time around, as it is a welcome change to the salmon and tuna treats you can find out there. But if your cat is not fond of fish, you can easily replace it with cooked chicken. Whatever ingredient you choose, make sure you get the option with the lowest salt content. We don’t want to have a thirsty kitty! My mackrels already came in sunflower oil, but if yours don’t, just add a splash before adding the rest of the ingredients. Now, if you find your mixture to be too dry, you can add water. If you want to go all out and use milk, please only use cat milk, or full fat milk in very small doses. Cats are naturally lactose intolerant and too much milk can upset their digestion. The lower the fat content of milk, the higher the lactose content – so if you want to go all natural, opt for a mix of full fat milk and water.

Last but not least please remember that I am in no way qualified to give you expert advice on cats – you as the owner know what your cat likes and dislikes. If you are unsure about any of the ingredients or simply want a bit of advice before you start cooking, please do go see your vet. They will be more than happy to help you out.

Makes approx 200g of cat crunchies:

1 tin mackrel in sunflower oil (you can also use tuna, salmon, sardines or chicken)

50g whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting

50g cornflour

1 egg

small tub of catnip (use as little or as much as you like!)


Bake in the oven on a medium to high heat until crunchy (about 15-20 minutes)

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Cannelloni – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on August 31, 2011 at 6:41 pm


What better way to stay warm than a lovely, comforting, pasta dish. With a few tips and tricks you’ll be serving this one in no time!

Cannelloni always remind me of festive days – at home, we would have it at Christmas or on somebody’s birthday. So it’s needless to say that I find it to be a very comforting dish! It’s also a great dish to serve at a dinner party – it’s a bit more unusual than Lasagne and just as tasty!

One of the main features of this dish is that you can prepare it the night before. On the big day, all you need to do is pop it in the oven and then you can tend to your guests while dinner is basically making itself. Pretty clever! What’s more is that you can easily alternate between Lasagne and Cannelloni – you’ll need exactly the same ingredients, all that changes is the pasta shape. A bit like changing between square and round pizza if you ask me! So now that you already know how to make Cannelloni and Lasagne, all you need is learning how to make a basic tomato sauce. I know that some of the pre-made ones out there are pretty good, but once you get into the habit of doing this, there is really no going back. Coincidentally, it takes just as much time to make a small portion of pasta sauce as it takes for the pasta itself to cook, so there’s really no excuse!

One last note on pasta sheets/tubes – I recommend using either De Cecco or Buitoni, as these are made to the high quality standard that you would expect in Italy. Though there is nothing wrong with buying supermarkets’ own brand pasta, these do tend to cook slightly differently. If you want a bake that stays al dente, do opt for one of the aforementioned brands.

Feeds 4:

1 box Cannelloni

500g mince

Approx. 200g cheese of your choice (I prefer mild Gouda to the more traditional mozzarella, as it provides an equally mild flavour with less moisture)

Approx. 50g breadcrumbs, depending on how dry you would like the mix

Grated hard cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

For the tomato sauce:

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1tbsp tomato concentrate


Half an onion

Olive oil

Spices and flavours to taste (eg chilli or fresh basil, or even capers!)

Gently fry the chopped onion and garlic in some olive oil until see-through. Add the chopped tomatoes and concentrate. Season and add any other flavours of your choice and simmer on a low heat for approx 10-20 minutes, depending on how ‘dry’ you like it.

Cover the cannelloni with tinfoil and bake on a medium heat for 20 minutes. Carefully uncover and bake for a further 20 minutes. Leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Three starters – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on August 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Think you can’t make three starters in three minutes? Think again!

Even though they don’t always seem it, starters are a very important part of the meal. Want to be a bit fancy? Simply add another course to your dinner! Invite some friends round to a three-course meal – starter, main, and dessert – and you’ll be amazed at how easily you can pull it off!

As I mentioned before, starters are an integral part of a meal. Think about it – they are the first thing your guests will taste and serve as a mood-setter for the things that will follow. I usually try to keep the starter as seasonal as possible – if you’re unsure of what is in season and when, a quick search will do the trick. The golden rule is to always keep it light – you don’t want to fill your guests up right away! Keep it fresh – starters are an ideal way to serve a cool course during the hot summer months. Alternatively, opt for a warm salad or a soup during colder periods.

There is nothing better than finding a recipe that works for you and then sticking with it. Why not make your starter into a main? I love to serve up my caprese salad as a light lunch during summer, or make bigger portions of the couscous and leek salad and serve it with some toasted pitta bread! The truth is, as long as you keep it light and fresh there is not much you can do wrong. I love to use herbs in starters – since most of them rely on delicate flavours, you can really work with different herbs and make them shine.

Just a quick note on olive oil: I strongly suggest you buy good olive oil for these recipes – try to go for extra virgin olive oil whenever you can. As these recipes work with mild flavours, you will really be able to appreciate a good quality olive oil.

Feeds 4 as a starter or 2 as a main:

Caprese salad:

4 medium tomatoes

2 mozzarelle

Some fresh basil

Salt, pepper and olive oil to taste

Orange salad:

4 oranges


Salt, pepper and olive oil to taste

Warm couscous and leek salad:

150g couscous

1 leek

1 lime


Salt, pepper and olive oil to taste

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

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