Olfactory Geniuses, a.k.a Furry Besties, and a Hearty Culinary Substitute

Who do you enjoy following most on Instagram (apart from The Medical Gourmet, of course)? Top on my list are The Dogist and Americankennelclub. There is something about the four-legged furry creatures that always manages to brighten my day. I mean, look at the legend below, chilling in Manhattan traffic with no care in the world. Sadly current life logistics don’t allow for my flatmate and myself to have a dog. Maybe I should use a quarter-life crisis as an excuse to commence a dog-walker career :-).

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Not only are dogs brilliant companions, they also have a superb sense of smell allowing them to be great diagnosticians. Rumors regarding dogs abilities to detect cancer have been talk of the streets for the past two decades. Only recently have researchers linked these rumors to actual facts. In Italy, a pair of german shepherds were trained to detect the smell of prostate cancer. They were subsequently presented with 677 urine samples, 320 belonging to men with prostate cancer, 357 belonging to men without. The dogs correctly identified the urine samples with prostate cancer in 99% of the time and those without cancer in 97% of the time. Not too bad if you ask me.
Furthermore trained dogs can apparently help identify and warn diabetic owners of imminent hypoglycemia (Diabetes Typ I). Patients with with narcolepsy can not only be warned of an attack, but also supported during an attack by dogs standing in positions preventing injury or getting help. Some dogs show behavioural changes (apparently caused through olfactory detection of secreted serotonin) when the owner is due to have a migraine, allowing the intake of preventative medication. In the UK, lots more research is currently underway (check this website out – Medical Detection Dogs ) – I am curious as to what the future will bring. Dogs for the win!
As for the recipe, after returning home from 5 weeks of travelling to a flat without a furry companion, my soul craved something warming and hearty. And then I found some grated cheese in the fridge. Oven-baked something topped with melted cheese? Who could say no to that?

Stuffed Peppers au Gratin

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serves 2

You’ll need
2 peppers
Olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
ca. 300g mincemeat
1.5 tbsp tomatopurée
1.5 tsp runny honey
2-3 tsp balsamic vinegar
Ca. 400ml tomato passata
A generous handful of basil leaves, chopped
Needles from a large sprig of rosemary, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
Ground cumin and cayenne pepper to add some spice, optional
2 handfuls of grated cheese (whichever you prefer, I used pizza cheese)

  1. Heat your oil in a large pan and fry the onions and garlic until glassy.
  2. Add the mincemeat and brown. Mix in the tomatopurée, honey and balsamic vinegar. Let the flavours develop for 1-2 minutes before adding the passata, basil leaves, rosemary, salt and pepper.
  3. Bring everything to a boil. Turn down the heat, cover with a lid and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180°C, fan.
  5. Prepare your peppers for the stuffing by cutting a thin slice from the stem end of each to remove the top. Remove the seeds and membranes before rinsing. Stand them upright in a gratin dish.
  6. Once your 30 minutes are up, taste, season with salt, pepper, cumin or cayenne if using.
  7. Carefully stuff the peppers with your sauce and pour any remaining sauce around their base. Top each generously with cheese. If you want to roast the previously removed pepper tops, place them in the dish.
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes until the cheese has melted and crusted over.
  9. Serve immediately. This dish goes well with salad, rice or even a side of noodles.

Rating: 10/10

Of course it’s no Michelin star dish, but for a simple midweek dinner it deserves top marks.

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