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Monday 30 April 2012

Shahi Paneer~ Paneer Cubes in Rich Tomato Nuts Gravy

 This recipe has been sitting in my drafts for almost 5 months! I really do not know why? I generally cook a paneer curry every weekend. Earlier I have posted Palak Paneer ( Paneer in a spinach gravy) and Paneer Methi Malai (Paneer in a spicy red gravy flavored with dried fenugreek leaves). Shahi Paneer is a  very rich curry and that's why is not that frequently made in my house. It is actually reserved for special occasions.

'Shahi' literally translates to 'Royal', meaning this gravy is rich enough for a royal palate. The richness comes from the cashew paste and cream used in making the gravy, the more you use the richer the gravy. Lets see how I make it.

Shahi Paneer

250 gm paneer, cut into cubes

3-4 tomatoes
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
1/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup cream
2-3 tbsp oil
1" piece cinnamon
2-3 cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 green chillies slit
1/4 to1/2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
Chopped coriander for garnishing
1 tbsp sugar
Salt to taste


1. Blanch the tomatoes. Make a slit on the skin and put them under hot boiling water. After 5 minutes take them out and peel the tomato skin. Set aside. Microwave the quartered onion or boil them till they are soft.
2. Keep the cashews in hot water for 30 minutes, till they are soft.
3. Churn the tomatoes, boiled onions and soaked cashews into a very smooth paste. You can make separate paste for each of them. I have tried both ways and I don't see much of a difference in taste in the resultant curry.
4. Heat oil in a large pan. When heated add the whole spices and saute for a few seconds. Add the ginger garlic paste and saute for a minutes. Then add the tomato, onion and cashew paste.Add the salt. Simmer it on a medium flame for 5-10 minutes. Add all the other spices except garam masala. Cook for another 5-7 minutes. Add warm water to the gravy to get the desired consistency.The raw of the spices will go away and oil will leave from the sides.
5. Add the paneer cubes and stir. Add the cream and sugar and garam masala.
6. Simmer for another 2 minutes. Garnish with chopped coriander. Serve hot with roti, naan or parathas.

Sunday 29 April 2012

Lucky Library Picks #11 ~ 1Q84 by Murakami

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (Book 1 and 2)

This is a belated post of my Lucky Library Picks series. I was supposed to publish it on the 15th of this month. But, due to my illness, I couldn't. I had picked up this book early this month.

This book has been on display in every book shop I have been in the last couple of month and I have seen many good and bad reviews of the book. It intrigued me and I have been looking for it in the library for quite a time. I had spotted the Book 3 many a times. But, I wanted to read the book in sequence. Hence, when I saw this volume, I picked it up.

I am very much looking forward to reading it. 

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers1

Friday 27 April 2012

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer ~ #4 Twilight Series

Breaking Dawn is the fourth and the last of the much acclaimed Twilight series. I am not much of a paranormal fantasy book reader. In fact, the twilight series is the only what I have read in this genre. That too, after my friend recommended it to me.

Breaking Dawn is a continuation from the last book of the series, Eclipse. The first  part of the book is all about the marriage of Bella and Edward followed by a honey moon in the lonely and far off Esme Island. It is during the honeymoon, Bella realizes there is something seriously wrong in her. It comes as a surprise to her that she is pregnant, actually very pregnant and that too in a span of time that is humanly impossible. But, then the thing growing inside her is not human. It is a culmination of vampire and human. No one knows what it would be. But, one thing is for sure, it is slowly devouring Bella inside out. This little thing growing inside her changes the equations of relationship among people around her. Friends become foes and enemies becomes friends. The relationship with Jacob takes a whole new dimension.

The author has used a lot of imagination and the story is full of twists and turn. I can't really delve into details of the story line. That is very much a thing to read in the novel.
But, I do have some issues with the story. First thing, the story by the end was neatly tied in a bow. There were no loose ends. Every one gets what they want. I don't mean I like sad endings but, to me the ending seemed too perfect to be true. That took away a lot of charm and awe I had for the series. Bella had never been my favorite character nor had been Edward. Bella had always been portrayed as a clumsy, inefficient being and after being immortalized, she is the most gifted one, as if she was born to be immortalized. In fact, I have read that the cover page of the book signifies exactly that. From being the most insignificant player, she becomes the most powerful one. The title of the book also signifies Bella's new life. My problem with Edward is that he is too good. I mean loving one is fine. But giving in to the irrational demands of your beloved is not the right thing. I loved Jacob Black's character. He was the only one who seemed to be real to me but then I lost him when he imprinted!
Also, I couldn't digest the fact that the battle with the Volturi ended without much of a combat. I wish there had been more action on the ground rather than in the mind.

Of the whole series I liked the first book most. It was a page turner for me. In the following books, there was too much of sulking on Bella's part, too much of eternal love from Edward. Only Jacob Black kept me glued to the series. I give it to the author for her incredible imagination. The story came a long way from the point it started. It had been a tumultuous journey for Bella. So, it has been for the reader. All in all it was a different experience reading the series. Good for easy and light read, nothing more.

Thank you for stopping by. Cheers!

Egg less Vanilla Cake (With Condensed Milk and Coke)

It has been a while since I shared a cake recipe here. I do bake often but not all get posted here. I had clicked these pictures quite a while back. Only now it is making its way to this space. When ever I have a cake craving, it is usually for chocolate cake or a brownie. But, DH loves plain vanilla cake. So, when ever he requests me for a cake, it is plain vanilla only. Anything else should come with an icing.

I make the plain vanilla cake in a couple of ways, sometimes with yogurt, sometimes with vinegar. But, my favorite way is with condensed milk. So, if I have condensed milk can at home, I go this way.
There are many recipes floating around the web for a cake with condensed milk. Even, I remember my mom making  cakes with condensed milk. I can say it is the most traditional way of making egg less cakes. For the liquid content of the cake, I like to use coke or soda water. It really makes a difference to the texture of the cake. However, it can be replaced by milk or water if you don't have aerated cold drink at hand.

Eggless Vanilla Cake (With condensed milk and coke)

11/2 cup AP Flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup soft butter
1 tin sweetened condensed milk (400gm)
2/3 cup coca cola at room temperature.
2 tsp vanilla extract

Butter and flour for greasing and dusting the pan


1. Preheat the oven at 180 C. Line a 9" square tin. Please note that baking time may vary if you choose a smaller or larger tin. So, adjust accordingly.

2. Shift the flour, baking powder and baking soda twice. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl whip the condensed milk and butter till the mixture is creamy.

4. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture in 2-3 parts. Keep stirring while adding flour mixture. Add the coke in the end and whisk for another 2 minutes. The batter will have a pouring consistency.

5. Pour the batter in the prepared tin and bake it in the preheated oven for 15 minutes at 180 C. Then lower the temperature to 160 C and bake for another 25- 30 minutes.

6. The cake is done when a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool for at least 15 minutes before turning the cake out of the tin. Slice and enjoy!

1. Add the aerated drink at the end only and be fast in pouring it into the greased pan and get baking.
2. Aerated drink can be replaced by room temperature milk or water. But, I find aerated drink gives a lighter texture to the cake.
3. If you are using a smaller pan, it make take longer to bake it. Similarly, if using a larger pan, it will get baked quicker. So, adjust accordingly and keep an eye.

Linking it to Bake Fest #6. This event is the brain child of Vardhini.

Thank you for stopping by. Cheers!

Thursday 26 April 2012

Lingering Tide and other stories by Latha Vishwanathan

Lingering Tide and other stories by Latha Vishwanathan is a collection of 12 poignant short stories. I am not a big fan of short stories. In fact, I can count on my fingers the number of short story books I have read. The good thing about short stories is that they are short and at times you want to read something short, they come in handy. For that fact, I read short stories real slow, one story at a time.

What the blurb says about the book:

"Fiction. These poignant short stories depict the lives of immigrants through the theme of family adjustments, loss, setting afresh in a new place. Set in suburban Toronto, New Jersey, Texas and India, they draw out the conflicts in three generations of Indians whose lives interconnect even as they straddle the old and the new. What we sense is both the anguish of loss and the thrill of discovery. Viswanathan's quiet prose imparts powerful emotions that ring true and her rendering of cultural clash is truly skilful and nuanced. The depiction of her characters’ interior lives is so full and vital that they breathe and walk off the page. The reader is drawn in and completely absorbed into her world of transitions."

All the stories in the collection have a mystic element to it. They have a lingering feeling, a thoughtfulness and sometimes even a sense of incompleteness. After I read one, I just kept thinking about it. I didn't like all of them or may be I should say, I couldn't connect with all of them. My eyes moistened as I read 'Brittle'. It is a tragic, heart wrenching story that will leave a lump in your throat. I liked Attar, Eclipse and A Couple of Rouges among others. All of them had a different story to tell and the characters were well etched and vivid. I found 'Cool Wedding' sort of funny. It is in the form of a letter which a lady living in the US writes to her friend ranting about her life in the foreign land. It was interesting to see things from the point of the protagonist.

 I found the last 3 stories least appealing. What I find difficult understanding is why the author tries to portray characters who have left their homeland to settle in foreign shore in gloom and doom. Why there is always a feeling of wrong doing on their part?
Some of these stories will put you in self contemplation mode, some you might just forget. I give it a balanced 3/5.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Latha Viswanathan has worked as a journalist, copywriter, editor and teacher in India, London, Manila, Montreal, Toronto and the United States. These stories have appeared in major American literary magazines and won awards. Her work received a grant from the Texas Commission of the Arts in Fiction, was published in Best New Stories from the South and broadcast on National Public Radio. She currently lives and writes in Houston.

I received a free eBook from TSAR publishers for review.

Linking it to the South Asian Challenge

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Wednesday 25 April 2012

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I had bought this book from the library the day I spotted it on the shelves. Yet, it had been sitting on my shelves for quite a time before I picked up to read. Why? I was wary. It has happened quite many times that a book that has been winning rave reviews failed to make a strong impact on me. I have had the feeling of being on the wrong side so many times that I was darn skeptic to read it. But, I am proved so wrong. I really loved the book and believe all the hype around this book is actually worth it.

The book has a strong and heavy storyline. It is about the rampant racial discrimination that was prevalent in the United States in early and mid nineties between the coloured and the white people. Despite the strong subject line, the story has been treated with great care. It is brave, warm and often witty. As a reader, not for a single moment I felt bogged down by the heavy subject of the book. It is not a sad book, but a heart warming one with a lot of hope, faith and love.

The book has very strong female characters, white and coloured. There is 22 years old Miss Skeeter, who has just returned home with a degree. Her mother is more interested in her marriage rather than her career. But, Miss Skeeter is restless, because her beloved coloured maid who had lovingly raised her, has disappeared. There are questions in Miss Skeeter's mind that no one wants to answer. There is Aibileen, a black maid who works for Miss Skeeter's friend - Miss Leefolt. She is raising her seventeenth white child. But, something has shifted in her heart since the death of her own only son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. And then there is Minny, Aibileen's best friend. She can cook like nobody's business but she can't mind her tongue. This puts her into a lot of trouble with her employers and she can't stick to a job for long.

Seemingly as different as can be, these women will come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk.

The story is set in Jackson, Mississippi during the time when the civil right movement in United States was at its peek. That was the time when Martin Luther King Jr went up a podium in Washington DC and said 'I have a dream'. Things have changed a lot ever since and the world has come a long way. That is evident from the fact that Barack Obama is the present President of the United States of America.

This book is about the lines which human created based on colour and how people who nurtured a dream, set out to voice their opinion and overstep the man-made lines. It is about ordinary people who can be courageous in their own way. It is interesting to know that the writer drew inspiration from her own experience for writing this book, even though the book is largely a fictional account. I took some time to get used to the Afro American slang that is used generously in the book. It surely works for the story.

I really liked the quote  by Howell Raines, which the author includes in her personal excerpt at the end of the book and I believe these words sums up the feeling behind the novel in a concise way.

"There is no trickier subject for a writer from the South than that of affection between a black and a white one in the unequal world of segregation. For the dishonesty upon which a society is founded makes every emotion suspect, makes it impossible to know whether what flowed between two people was honest feeling or pity or pragmatism."

Although, I do not fall in either of the sides as far as colour is concerned, nor I have been through any incidents of racial discrimination, I can connect to the issue in a whole different way. I have seen discrimination on the basis of caste and creed in my own country and it is in many ways similar to the issue in context in the novel. It makes me realize that the things I take for granted today were not the same years back. It takes courage on the part of ordinary people who want to change things to step out of their comfort zone, voice their opinion, make an impact and initiate the change.

Don't miss this one, it is not a literary piece but a heart warming tale that can tug the chords of your heart. Highly recommended.

Thank you for stopping by. Cheers

Monday 23 April 2012

Yes I know I disappeared again

Yes, I know I disappeared again. And this time it has been longer. I was sick again and this time I was down with chicken pox. Yeah, you heard me right, of all things - chicken pox. Many would say, it is something children get. Well, yes. But, I never had it as a child. So, I guess I wasn't immune and was an easy prey to it this time.

Before you ask, let me tell you, I am far better now. Motivated enough to update this blog. The blisters were not very wide spread. So, I guess I was down with a milder one. But the symptoms were annoying - fever, sore throat, back ache, lethargy and the constant desire to itch.The blister are drying up now and hopefully in a day or two, will scab off. I have been on a very bland diet for the past 10 days and have to be so for a couple of more days (so, I have been advised). A dear friend took care of cooking things for me all these days. I can't thank her enough for all the help and concern. I am grateful to God for blessing me with such good friends.

So, you can guess there hasn't been much cooking and clicking of late. Although, I have a number of drafts for recipe posts, I don't feeling like posting them. I will however post a few, if I am not cooking anything new for a few days.

Past 10 days I have rested like I have not in years. No household chores, no TV, no cooking. Only long distance calls and unlimited sleeping and a little reading when ever I felt like. I read The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer. So, expect the reviews for these book soon. I have 3 other books that I am reading now Lingering Tide and other stories by Latha Vishwanathan, Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner and The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott.

Among other updates, I have been on twitter (@JyotiBabel) for sometimes now. Although, I am not much of a tweeter myself, I love to check what the world is tweeting about. Recently, I found from twitter that Instagram App for Android is out. I have seen many people sharing pictures through this app and so I signed up on Instagram instantly (as I recently got myself an Android phone). Instagram is a fun way of sharing pictures. So, if you have an iPhone or an android phone and love taking pictures, Instagram is for you. If you are already there then do check out my profile at JyotiBabel. After Pinterest(jbpages), Instagram is the thing I am hooked to.

Hopefully, this space will be active with a few book reviews for the time being. Stay tuned.

Thank you for stopping by. Cheers!

Thursday 12 April 2012

Mint Ginger Lemonade

I have a love and hate relationship with Irish summers. Irish summers for the good part are not sunny but rainy, and the rain is not torrential but dripping and drizzling all the time. That is the part I hate. When it sunny the crowd throngs to the parks to bask in the sun and suddenly and unexpectedly, it will rain and everyone will run for a make shift shelter or open their umbrellas. You can't do without an umbrella in your bag in this country. The month of March had been great weather wise, spring felt like real summer but April has been rather cool and rainy. But, I don't really look at the weather when I want to indulge in something cold. I can have an ice cream with a blanket around me and sip a cool drink even though the weather is not ideal for it. And that is exactly what I am doing now.

For Blog Hop Wednesdays, my partner is Vidya who blogs at kurryleaves and I chose this cool drink to try out from her blog.

Mint Ginger Lemonade


Juice of 1 lemon, about 3-4 tbsp
15-20 mint leaves
1 inch peice of ginger
400 ml chilled water
Ice cubes as needed
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp black salt

1. Add 60 ml water, mint leaves, lemon juice, sugar and salt and whiz it in a blender to a fine puree. Sieve to get the juice and discard the waste.
2. Divide the juice in2-3 glasses equally. Add ice cubes and top it up with rest of the water and stir. Serve chilled.
Check what other blog hoppers are up with here.
Thank you for stopping by. Cheers!

Wednesday 11 April 2012

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Sometimes I feel I am on the wrong side of the line when a book that has won accolades from a huge number of readers, fails to make a significant impact on me.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak falls in that category for me. To tell you what the book is all about, I am quoting the blurb:

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s ground-breaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meagre existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbours during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.
This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

 I have not read a lot of Holocaust fiction. In fact, I had read my first on it just last year. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne had the kind of impact on me, a holocaust book should have. I think what worked there was the innocence of the narrator, how he was oblivious of the things happening around him. Another one on the subject, Beatrice and Virgil byYann Martel was the most bizarre book I have ever read. The author tried an innovative approach, but for me it failed completely to convey the message. The Book Thief falls in between these two books. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. It was just another book that will fade from my memory as time passes.

Holocaust is one of the most horrendous periods in human history and to read about it is not a joyful experience.  Stories about it should wreck and wrench the reader’s heart (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne did exactly that). This book didn’t live up in that aspect. I like the idea of Death being the narrator and the Holocaust being the busiest period for him. But, somehow the story didn’t hold together as one. It kept me engrossed till half the way through the book and then it faltered. I found it a bit monotonous and bland. Not that I expect Holocaust fiction to be spiced up, but I felt it just went on for the sake of it. Even if I skipped a few pages, it didn’t affect the flow of the story. 

It summed up to this - Even Death was sorry to see the state of Jews in the Holocaust period, how could humans (who have a heart and a soul) inflict such atrocities on their fellow beings and be oblivious to their sufferings.

Having said all this, there were some things about the book that made me kept reading. The observations of the narrator - Death on the human race were often profound and even witty. Here are some:

“I am haunted by humans.”

“Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day.”

“My heart is so tired”

“A small fact:
You are going to die....does this worry you?”

“People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it's quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations with each passing moment. A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors. Waxy yellows, cloud-spot blues. Murky darkness. In my line of work, I make it a point to notice them.”

“I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that's where they begin. Their great skills is their capacity to escalate.”

“I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race - that rarely do I ever simply estimate it.”

I hate writing a bad review. But, this is not one. I just can't pin point at any thing in particular, as to why I didn't enjoy reading this book as most people did, or as much I hoped I would. I would give it a generous 3/5.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Hello World!

Knock knock! Any one there?

It is unusual but this space has been silent for over a week. It was not the plan.

 But, the good news is that I am back and hopefully will be regular from now on. I was down with a sudden illness and the medicines (how I hate them) made me drowsy and tired. For a few days, I felt as if all energies have been drained off me and I felt sorely clumsy. Thankfully, I am far better now and back in action.

Hope you all had a great Easter weekend. Mine was somewhat quiet, largely because I was not feeling well and partly because the weather wasn't that great. After a nice month of March, temperature are plummeting now and it rains so often. I hope it gets better soon. It was one of the rare weekends when I didn't do much cooking (I will make up for it soon). On the reading front, I have been ever so lazy. I am still reading the book I had started two weeks back 'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak. Hopefully, I will finish it in a day or two and post the review here. This space has been starving for book reviews for some time now.

On the personal front, a very good friend is relocating to a different country. I have silently shed a few tears and I know how I would miss her. It is only in these circumstances, I realise how we take things for granted. She is a very good cook and there has been always something to learn from her. An interested reader, I have often shared my enthusiasm about some books with her. All I can say know that I will miss here dearly. People come, people go. But some makes a place in your heart. She is one such person, I am glad to have known.

I have a good number of recipes in my draft to keep this space going. But, I don't really feel like posting one. But, I think I am going to do exactly that later. For now, I just wanted to talk.

Enough of my rants for now. I will be up with something more interesting soon. Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Tuesday 3 April 2012

Chocolate Cornets

For Egg less Bakes this month Gayathri chose this Chocolate Cornet recipe. The recipe had eggs and all bakers had to try out the egg less version. The cornet is made of bread dough and is filled with chocolate custard. For the dough, I substituted eggs with a mixture of yogurt and milk and for the chocolate custard I used corn flour.

These Chocolate Cornets will be great for kids. I filled four of them with chocolate custard and rest with a savoury samosa filling. However, I am giving the measurement of custard need for 12 cornets here. Baking them was fun. though it seemed a lengthy process as I had to make the cornet's molds from scratch.

Recipe Source:  CookingWith Dog

Makes 12 Cornets:

For the dough:
300gm flour +1/4 cup flour for dusting
1 tbsp milk powder
2tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
7 gm Instant Yeast
140ml warm Water
2 tbsp yogurt
2 tbsp milk
30 gm butter

For The Chocolate Custard:
350 ml silk
¼ cup sugar
2 tbsp corn starch
3/8 cup chopped chocolate (I used a combination of dark and milk chocolate)
1 tsp vanilla extract

For The Cornet molds:
Please refer tothis video to check how to make them

For The Bread Cone:

1.  In a bowl, mix flour, salt, and milk powder. In lukewarm water add the sugar and then sprinkle yeast over it and let it sit for 5 minutes to rise.
2. Make a whole in the flour mixture and add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture. Add yogurt and milk and prepare soft dough.
3. Knead the dough for 5 minutes and then flatten it on the counter dusted with flour. Place the chopped pieces of butter in the middle and cover it with the dough.
4. The dough will be very sticky at this point, use extra flour and knead it for another 5-7minutes until the butter is well incorporated and the dough becomes soft and elastic.
5. Place the dough in a large greased bowl and cover with a plastic wrap.
6. Keep it in a warm place to rise till it is double in volume.
7. When well risen, punch the air out of it and divide it into 12 equal portions.
8. Roll each portion into a ball and keep it covered on the counter for 15 minutes.
9. Grease the cornet molds with butter
10. Flatter each ball and shape them into a long rope such that it is thin at edges and thicker in the middle.
11. Wrap it around the cornet molds. Start from the bottom to the top of the mold and then pinch the end of the rope to close it.
12. Place the prepared cornets on a greased tray and allow it to rise for 15-20minutess.

13. Preheat oven to 200C and bake the cornets for 10-12 minutes. When done place them on a wire rack to cool. Unmold the cornet and store cornets in an airtight box until needed.

Chocolate Custard: 
I prepared the custard in microwave.


  1. Place the chopped chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and heat it in the microwave till it is melted. It will take 2 minutes.
  2. Mix the corn starch, sugar in a large microwave safe bowl and add in the milk. Whisk to remove any lump. Microwave it for 2 minutes. Whisk again. Add the melted chocolate and vanilla essence. Whisk. Microwave it again for 3-5 minutes whisking after every 1 minute.
  3. The custard is done the mixture comes thick and creamy. Time may vary from microwave to microwave. So, keep an eye on the process.

Assembling the Chocolate Cornets:

1. Fill the custard in a zip lock bag and make a small hole at one of the edges.
2. Place the tip inside the cornet and squeeze the bag to fill the cornet with the custard.
3. Repeat the same with other cornets. Serve with tea or coffee. Enjoy!

Linking it to Yeast Spotting
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