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Monday, October 27, 2008

The amazing impromptu dinner party

The dangerous thing about having friends as greedy as you is that food is never far from the topic of conversation.

So even before we had finished swallowing the last mouthfuls of our oyster picnic at Mooney Mooney, hands rubbing our distended and protesting bellies packed solid with oysters, sushi, cous cous, salad, meatballs, quiche, cheese and spinach triangles, grilled octopus, banana cupcakes, donuts AND chocolate cookies, the G-Man says "sooo..... ummm..... what are we doing for dinner tonight guys?"

There are groans, protests and shudders and complaints that plead "stop, no, I can't talk about food right now". It's all lies though. Within ten minutes we've bandied about the names of restaurants until Pig Flyin' pipes up "how about dinner at my place?"

It's a rhetorical question. We all nod with glee.

Oyster tempura

A few hours later, we're at their place, most of horizontal on the lounge and floor. Whilst I consider myself a fairly good cook, I'm always daunted by the prospect of hosting a dinner party for friends. I can turn leftovers in the fridge into a tasty slap-up meal, but the formality of a dinner causes me no end of hosting concern.

Pig Flyin' has no such worries, and it quickly becomes apparent why. He's a master. A quick trip to the shops and he's cooking up a storm. Our leftover oysters (kept in the esky on the way home) are cooked and then battered into the most delicious morsels of oyster tempura dusted with freshly ground Japanese pepper.

Italian spring vegetable soup

And then there's the soup. I'm not usually a fan of soup but I do enjoy a rustic bowl of homemade soup, filled with chunky vegetables. The Italian spring vegetable soup simmers quietly in the Le Creuset iron pot throughout our dinner preparations and when it's served, it's a sight to behold. Wilted spinach leaves, cubes of potato and florets of broccoli mingle in our bowls of steaming hot ham and vegetable broth. A little dig with the spoon reveals bright yellow gems of supersweet corn and my personal favourite, happy green pillows of broad bean, slippery smooth and very comforting.

It's served with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and a mound of freshly shaved parmesan. Pepper is optional. Smiles of satisfaction are guaranteed.

Roast chickens

The feast continues with two succulent roast chickens, skins golden and crispy, a platter of blanched asparagus spears, bowls of super smooth garlic-chip mashed potato (hand-pressed through a fine sieve in a tag-team effort that leaves three volunteers exhausted) and a cooling salad of raw zucchini, fetta and fresh mint leaves.

Mashed potato


Zucchini, fetta and mint salad

By the end of dinner, we're utterly replete. Could the night get any better?

It does. Pig Flyin' disappears into the kitchen and re-emerges with orange souffles.

We're not worthy. But we're eternally grateful and so very full.

Optional question: What's your fallback dish or menu when guests either loiter or suddenly arrive?

Orange souffles

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Stomachs Eleven: Christmas 2010 (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Teochew feast (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Mole poblano and pulled pork tacos (Me)
Stomachs Eleven: Pizza and friends (Miss Rice)
Stomachs Eleven: Ten kilograms of mussels (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Shanghainese banquet (M&L)
Stomachs Eleven: Wagyu shabu shabu and dessert sushi (Silverlily)
Stomachs Eleven: Stuffed deboned pig's head + nose-to-tail eating (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: French feast (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Whole suckling pig and Chinese banquet (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Hotpot night (M&L)
Stomachs Eleven: Crackling roast pork and black sesame cupcakes (me)
Stomachs Eleven: No ordinary steak dinner (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Polish feast (Miss Rice)
Stomachs Eleven: Christmas 2009 (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Char siu and Hainan chicken (me)
Stomachs Eleven: Amazing impromptu dinner party (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Dumplings and Shanghai soy duck (M&L)
18 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 10/27/2008 01:58:00 pm


  • At 10/27/2008 3:40 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh my goodness that looks fantastic! My fave fall back is a bill granger dish published when he was writing for Good Living, Spicy meatballs with tomato & tamarind sauce...Yum!

  • At 10/27/2008 3:41 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow very impressive! I've always admired people who can just grab a handful of ingredients and spin out a gourmet feast out of it. And orange souffles?

    *Kowtows in reverence*

    To answer your question - my fallback menu would be a giant satellite dish of paella or fideuá. At least you can cook it with a glass of wine in one hand! For dessert it would have to be cupcakes or brownies - any recipe with a one bowl mixture!

    I love your blog and am a long-time fan :)

  • At 10/27/2008 3:49 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Amazinnnggg! Hard to believe that is impromptu though cos everything looks too good to be whipped up so quickly! I should have a fallback dish.. but need more time in the kitchen first hee hee

  • At 10/27/2008 4:21 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What a day!!! A true feast by the look and sounds of it!! I am impressed with the menu on such a whim. Amazing! My fallback dish is an oven baked risotto with chorizo...a crowd favourite. For sweets indian cardamom burfi with strong coffee.


  • At 10/27/2008 4:31 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    By the way if your friend would ever be so willing to share his recipe for orange souffles - I'm sure there are plenty of readers who would be eternally grateful!

  • At 10/27/2008 6:05 pm, Blogger kelpenhagen said…

    Is one amazing "impromptu" meal! I can't imagine what a planned one would be like!

    Fall back dish for me is a simple risotto - like lemon and pea...and like @k means a glass of wine can be held while cooking!

  • At 10/27/2008 6:52 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I always have ingredients for tomato based pasta sauce at hand. My favourite is an adaptation of Jamie Oliver's spaghetti and meatballs. Roast is good too, just for the minimal food preparation (I'm a complete fascist in the kitchen and can't deal with anyone helping me).

  • At 10/27/2008 7:18 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    wow.. looks good!! had time to make all that?? my fall back dish would be pasta!.. lol.. cooked with asian ingredients eg. soysauce:)

  • At 10/27/2008 9:42 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Love your blog. That soup looks divine - any chance your friend might share his recipe?

  • At 10/28/2008 12:19 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    oh yes... i heard a lot of good things about flying pig's cooking... I would consider him as a "connoisseur" no doubt.

  • At 10/28/2008 9:46 am, Blogger Laurie said…

    Everything looks beautiful.. but those orange souffles.. I just would love one of those right now!

  • At 10/28/2008 12:49 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    How can you whip those dishes with no advance notice? I'm impressed! I have to plan ahead to get all the required ingredients. Fall back recipe? Well, grilled unagi and prawns in freezer can be handy for quick 'n easy prawn tempura. Can we have the roast chook recipe please?

  • At 10/28/2008 7:36 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Reemski - Ooh I think I remember cutting out that recipe. Meatballs are always good, and they taste even better the next day!

    Hi K - Wow, I'd love to drop by your place for paella then! I still haven't mastered the art of a good paella, so I'm impressed that's your fallback menu. I do like the wine in hand tactic though (better than drinking straight from the bottle anyway!).

    I'm a lazy baker too. I much prefer one bowl recipes. And thanks, glad you're enjoying the blog.

    Hi ffichiban - Everything was amazing. It certainly made me reassess my cooking abilities! But food cooked with love is always tasty, I think, especially when you have great friends to share it with!

    Hi Noodlehead - Ooh an oven baked risotto with chorizo does sound tasty (and low maintenance!). I do like my Indian sweets, but a strong cup of tea is usually my accompaniament!

    Hi K - Not sure of the souffle recipe but I'll see what I can do.

    Hi Kelly - From what I've heard his pre-planned meals are even more amazing, so yes, I was very happy. Risottos are great but I'm usually disheartened by the thought of all that stirring :) Lemon and pea sounds like a tasty combo though.

    Hi Shannon - Ooh yes I always have tinned tomatoes, pasta, anchovies and olives in my pantry. Spaghetti and meatballs also sounds good and roasts are great too!

    Hi Kay - I remember my flatmeat introduced me to the use of spaghetti as an alternate to Hokkien noodles - it really works and soaks up oyster sauce a treat :)

    Hi Blue Crane - I don't think there was much of a recipe but I'll see what I can do. I think it was a simple case of vegetable stock with some slices of smoked ham.

    Hi Billy - Pig Flyin' does have a reputation and I assure you none of it is exaggerated :) He is definitely a man of good taste!

    Hi Laurie - I've yet to even attempt cooking a souffle so the thought of whipping one up as an afterthought is staggering. I should get in there and have a go one day. The worse it could be would be a molten pudding :)

    Hi Jen - Oh yes, I have a packet of frozen unagi in my freezer right this moment. It's great on plain steamed rice. The roast chook recipe is easy - all he did was salt the outside then roast at 250C for about 30min or until cooked. The skin was so crispy!

  • At 10/28/2008 9:01 pm, Blogger Y said…

    What a lovely impromptu meal!

  • At 10/28/2008 11:09 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Impromptu souffles? Pig Flyin' is good!

    My fall back dish is always a curry with accompanying pickles, raita, dahl and rice. I make my own paste in big batches and freeze in portions so I've always got some on hand!

    Either that or a glorious rich and creamy pasta with lots of egg yolks + an interesting salad and homemade garlic bread - works a charm every time.

    Love the raw zucchini salad - delicious!

  • At 10/29/2008 12:26 am, Blogger Suyin said…

    Oh wow, I am so impressed. That level of cookery(?) is certainly something to aspire to. Amazing!

  • At 10/29/2008 7:30 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow, what a meal. All that and souffles? Amazing.

    I don't think I have a fall back dish for guests. You know I hate surprises and must plan things months in advance.

    My fall back dish for one would be fried eggs, with uber wobbly yolks, served on steamed rice with a splash of soy. Yolks forked just before serving to annoint the rice.

    Mental note - do not read GYF before breakfast. Suddenly feeling like a hungry hippo!

  • At 2/13/2009 11:55 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Yikes! How did I forget to respond to these comments?

    Hi Y - Lovely is hardly the word. It was incredible!

    Hi Christie - Ooh yum, they all sound great! The zucchini salad was so good - I have to remember to make it the next time I have a glut of zucchini in the fridge!

    Hi Suyin - He's a great cook and we're great (and grateful!) eaters :)

    Hi Veruca Salt - I'm a bit of a planner too but I think that stems from over-anxiety. I'm sure you could perform under pressure!

    I love runny eggs on rice. One of my favourite slap-up meals when I don't feel like cooking!


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