Vango turns 40!

chocolate & hazelnut layer cake with a delicious purple basil whipped cream filling & decorated with crystalized purple basil leaves.... entirely gluten free

Haaaaaaaave you met Vango?


Vangelis happens to be the Co-Head of the happy little catering company known as Chili Catering. The very same company I’ve been working for, for the last 2+ weeks. With him, I also work with Eirini, you know, that wonderful girl I made the strawberry & mint macarons with & also did a series of trials before arriving at the idea of a roulade with.

chocolate & hazelnut layer cake with a delicious purple basil whipped cream filling & decorated with crystalized purple basil leaves.... entirely gluten free

It’s a fabulous team. There’s also Costas, he can come across as a little grumpy & be hard to know, but once you crack through, he’s pretty fantastic too.

Back to Vangelis….

Did you know he’s turning 40 today? That’s quite impressive if you ask me. He’s been persistent that he wants nothing to do with a birthday cake…

Eirini & I don’t care one little bit what he wants. We’re going against his wishes & whipping him up one any way. Why should he get to deny us the joy of making a cake just because he’s said so?

chocolate & hazelnut layer cake with a delicious purple basil whipped cream filling & decorated with crystalized purple basil leaves.... entirely gluten free

Since he’s quite the Chef & very imaginative with flavors, I’ve decided to do a cake that will be layered…. • hazelnut • hazelnut & milk chocolate • hazelnut & dark chocolate •
Then, in between each of these delicious layers, there will be a wonderfully light, basil whipped cream.

layers of hazelnut & chocolate sponge cake filled with a purple basil whipped cream... gluten free

It’s heaven.

Even more heavenly, the design.

More often than not, I finish a cake & I’m sorely disappointed with it. Not that it isn’t good, it’s just, I always tell myself “I can do so much better”. Not to brag or anything, but I am so ridiculously pleased with myself over this cake that there is no bringing me down. Not today. Can’t wait to show him what Eirini & I did!!!

Did I mention that I lovingly crystalized each & every basil leaf myself? From purple basil plants growing in my garden which I actually grew all by myself from seed?!?! Oh yea, every single part of the process.

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caramelized onion tart with mediterranean vegetables

Do you get this phase in your cooking adventures where you want to impress and don’t know exactly how? Then you start adding ingredients, spices and aromatics and usually you end up with something that tastes like soap and dog food…

Having hit 30 years old recently, I am slowly realizing how right my grandma was when she told me “less is more”. Being at an age where I can somewhat claim that I can speak from experience…. in every field of ones life, the “less is more” mentality is making more sense every day.

What happens though is that you get all the basics figured out first and then the fine tuning takes place. You can see this in sports for example… the top players in every sport make it seem like it’s easy, effortless (Messi anyone?) whereas the bad players move a lot and accomplish little. This happens in cooking too, and that’s the reason I love italian food. Basil, mozzarella, tomato and olive oil… and that’s the end of it. Throw in some yeasty dough and you have pizza, and who doesn’t like pizza?  You see… they have been fine tuning their recipes since 239857295b.c. and are now in that sweet spot I envy so much.

This is what I am trying to accomplish with this recipe… take a few simple vegetables and bring out the best they have to offer. Of course, you can add goat cheese and make it “better” but all you are doing is adding “noise” and I think I can reduce the ingredients more if I tried.

– mel

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birthday bash basil & chocolate cupcakes

Mel has one of these wonderful cookbooks that is basically just a giant reference of ingredients & flavors that go well with each other. Several months ago, we discovered that chocolate & basil go really well together. I’m sure this isn’t news to quite a few flavor connoisseurs out there, but it was news to us. Back then, Mel used to bake a fresh loaf of bread, we’d pour on a little basil flavored olive oil, and then wrap it all around a chunk of dark chocolate. Incredibly delicious, but not something that I could ever serve up as a dessert.

For a while now I’ve been reading a blog called Desserts for Breakfast, and whilst going through the archives I’d found a dessert that incorporated the chocolate & basil flavors. It was an amazing reminder of all those nights spent standing over the sink engorging on the fresh bread, and as it turns out it was great inspiration for me since I already knew these flavors worked really well together. Her version of the dessert was beautiful, but a little too fancy for an out door bbq, still, I decided I wanted to be a little adventurous with the desserts at my birthday bbq. Yea, sure, everything I made was cupcakes, and really how adventurous are those…. but, I could at least play with the flavors right?

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pesto pasta

A nice light pasta salad is the perfect summer dish I feel. We’ve got one or two up our sleeves, but today I’d like to share with you Mel’s pesto pasta. It’s simple, straight forward, & completely delicious. He also goes light on the garlic so you can eat it on a date. If you’re going to do that, I highly recommend packing a picnic basket and heading to the park or the beach.

As for me, I’m quite content just hovering behind him & stealing pasta bits out of the colander & dunking bread in the pesto. I think he’s learnt he can’t leave me unattended in the kitchen, ever.

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