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Monday, December 24, 2012

Stomachs Eleven Christmas Dinner 2012

stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012

There is no doubt that good food can create a happy gathering, but good company is vital. Friends and laughter can make any meal special. Our band of travelling appetites, otherwise known as Stomachs Eleven, assembled at the home of Mr and Mrs Pig Flyin' over the weekend for our annual Christmas dinner.

The theme for tonight, Pig Flyin' said, would be The Feast of the Seven Fishes, also known as The Vigil or La Vigilia. It's an Italian Christmas tradition, celebrating Christmas eve with a feast of seven different seafood dishes.

prosecco with pineapple rosemary sorbet at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Prosecco with pineapple and rosemary sorbet

We started with glasses of sparkling prosecco, poured over balls of sweet and refreshing pineapple and rosemary sorbet.

parmigiano reggiano truffle popcorn at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Parmigiano reggiano truffle popcorn 

A huge tin of parmigiano reggiano truffle popcorn was provided for snacking, and proved dangerously addictive. Hot kernels of popcorn were tossed liberally in melted butter, truffle oil and a mountain of finely shaved reggiano cheese.

fruit and vegetable table centrepiece at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Table centrepiece of fruits and vegetables

The table centrepiece was a rustic display of fresh fruits and vegetables. The ribboned orange added a festive touch, but it was hard not to admire the simple beauty of fresh zucchini flowers and vibrant red and white borlotti beans coupled with the sweet fragrance of donut peaches.

sydney rock oysters at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Sydney rock oysters

Our seafood bonanza began with fresh oysters - Pacific oysters may be large and creamy but the briny intensity of Sydney rocks will always win my heart.

pacific oysters at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Pacific oysters

kingfish pastrami at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Slicing the kingfish pastrami

kingfish pastrami on air baguettes at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Kingfish pastrami on air baguettes

Thin shavings of homemade kingfish pastrami (made using a modified recipe by Mark Best) are draped over homemade air baguettes, hollow torpedos that splinter into a thousand crunchy shards with one bite. It's a variation on the El Bulli dish, where lardo has been replaced with kingfish.

The air baguettes were made using a Sardinian pizza base recipe that is traditionally baked to a puff. It's wonderfully light and crisp, and a perfect complement to the salty sweet kingfish.

venetian sweet and sour sardines at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Sarde in saor - Venetian sweet-and-sour sardines with pine nuts, dill and pickled onions

We move onto sweet-and-sour sardine fillets, a Venetian specialty of sardines dressed with toasted pine nuts, olive oil and dill served on a bed of pickled onion ribbons.

scampi crudo at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Scampi crudo with ocean trout roe and capers 

Raw scampi is one of my most adored treasures in the world. Here it's an edible artwork with curls of scampi patterned with mounds of ocean trout roe, tomato, capers and micro herbs.

crumbed olives stuffed with anchovy at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Olive all'Ascolana crumbed olives with anchovy stuffing

Crumbed deep-fried olives stuffed with anchovies provide crunch and a salty hit.

torn salad with bacalhau at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Insalata ala 'esqueixada' or torn salad or raw marinated baccala (or bacalao salted cod) with onion, olives, tomatoes and cucumber

The torn salad is a rustic assembly of salted cod with onion, tomatoes, olives and cucumber. It's the first time I've tried salted cod soaked but raw, and there's something quite comforting about the simplicity of this dish.

stuffed calamari at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Calamari stuffed with cannellini beans, rosemary and its own tentacles 

Calamari can be a tricky beast to cook, but when it's done well, it's wondrous. Here the calamari has been stuffed with cannellini beans, chopped boiled eggs and its own tentacles, then chargrilled until just cooked. The calamari is amazingly tender, enhanced by a smoky caramelisation of the skin.

deep fried zucchini flowers with four cheeses at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Fior di zucca ripieni con il quattro formaggi - deep-fried zucchini flowers with four cheeses: reggiano, pecorino sardo, ricotta and gorgonzola picante

What better enticement to eat your vegetables than to deep-fry it?! The zucchini flowers have been dipped into a slow rise yeasted batter that deep fried to an ethereal crisp. Hidden inside the flower is a luxurious stuffing of four different cheeses: reggiano, pecorino sardo, ricotta and gorgonzola picante.

unrolling the rotolo at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Unrolling the rotolo

The rotolo, Mr and Mrs Pig Flyin' explain, is a dish they both enjoy but rarely find in restaurants. It's easy to understand why when you see the work involved to create this rolled pasta 'sausage'.

slicing the rotolo at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Slicing the rotolo

A large sheet of homemade pasta is needed to roll up with a filling. The entire thing is then wrapped in muslin cloth and boiled until just cooked.

rotolo of pasta with pumpkin, sage and burnt butter at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Rotolo di pasta con ripieno di zucca - homemade pasta stuffed with charcoal roasted pumpkin and dressed with hazelnut, fried sage leaves and burnt butter

The resulting pasta slice is elegant but also nourishing. It's like a pasta pudding, with the soft pasta sheets and nutty pumpkin filling yielding easily against the gentle nudge of fork. A garnish of deep fried sage leaves and toasted hazelnuts add texture, and the burnt butter sauce gives an extra level of richness.

cucumber granita at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Granita al cetriolo - cucumber granita with homegrown lemon verbena and pineapple sage

We cleanse our palates with cucumber granita, the delicate crystals pepped up with homegrown lemon verbena and pineapple sage.

snapper in fig leaves on the barbecue at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Snapper in fig leaves and foiled leeks on the barbecue

An enormous New Zealand snapper wrapped in fig leaves had gone onto the barbecue a few courses beforehand. Three whole leeks wrapped in foil keep it company.

kamado grill at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
It's a spaceship. No, it's a Kamado grill

The Kamado grill is Pig Flyin's latest acquisition and by all accounts, it's set for some overtime during the coming summer.

charcoal grilled snapper wrapped in fig leaves at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Pesce alla griglia - charcoal grilled New Zealand snapper wrapped in fig leaves

The charcoal grilled snapper is revealed with a flourish and many exclamations over its generous size.

snapper at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Serving the snapper

The flesh is sweet and firm, smoky from the grill and delicately flavoured from the wrapping of vine leaves.

charcoal roasted leek at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Charcoal roasted leek

The charcoal roasted leek is soft, smoky sweet, and I'm a sucker for the caramlised outer layer which is chewy but caramelised like a vegetable candy.

poached white peaches with polenta olive oil cake and fig leaf ice cream at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Spiced poached white peaches with polenta olive oil cake and fig leaf ice cream

There are six desserts, Pig Flyin' announces as we're clutching our stomachs. We are alarmed but also not surprised. Pig Flyin' never does anything by halves!

Desserts commence with a blushing white peach, spiced and poached resting on a tile of polenta olive oil cake. The fig leaf ice cream to the side is a revelation, made using the younger leaves of a neighbour's tree (the same one used for the snapper). The ice cream tastes like figs but without the cloying sweetness, and the inclusion of yoghurt provides a gentle tang.

eggplant and chocolate log at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Melanzane al cioccolata - Eggplant and chocolate dessert

Dessert number two is an eggplant and chocolate dessert, a favourite with locals along the Amalfi Coast throughout the long hot summer. It's not as strange as you might think, with the creamy nutty bitterness of the eggplant played off against layers of chocolate sauce and sweetened ricotta. It also looks just like a Christmas yule log!

eggplant and chocolate dessert with hazelnuts at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Eggplant and chocolate slice with double cream and hazelnuts

panforte dessert at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Panforte al cioccolata with figs, walnuts, hazelnuts and honey

Homemade petit fours include a rich panforte made with figs, walnuts, hazelnuts and honey.

pineapple wafers at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Wafer con creme ananas - pineapple buttercream wafers 

There are also sunshine bursts of yellow with pineapple buttercream sandwiched between layers of wafer.

amarena cherries at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Amarena cherries - sour Italian cherries bottled in syrup

The Amerena cherries are the only thing not homemade tonight. They're sour Italian cherries, usually grown in the Bologna and Modena regions of Italy, and are wickedly sweet.

sfogliatelle at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
Sfogliatelle alla ricotta

And finally, finally, we finish with homemade sfogliatelle, amazing flaky pastries that crunch as loud as a potato chip. Sfogliatelle means 'many leaves' or 'many layers' and the extreme flakiness of this delight is thanks to lots of soul giving lard. Stuffed inside is a pocket of ricotta, semolina and citrus. The recipe Pig Flyin' used is here.

real pine christmas tree at stomachs eleven dinner party christmas 2012
The Pig Flyin' pine Christmas tree

What will you be eating this Christmas? I have dinners with friends and family ahead - not all of them necessarily fancy, but all celebrating the people we love and cherish.

Have a lovely Christmas everyone! Enjoy the feasting ahead and remember there's always room for second dessert. I see pavlova in my future, and lots of it!

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Stomachs Eleven Christmas - 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

Thanks again to Mr and Mrs Pig Flyin' for the incredible feast. More pics of the behind-the-scenes prep can be seen on Pig Flyin's Instagram.
26 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 12/24/2012 03:46:00 am


  • At 12/24/2012 5:46 am, Anonymous ChopinandMysaucepan said…

    Dear Helen,

    This looks like an awesome feast! Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  • At 12/24/2012 7:44 am, Anonymous Minh said…

    As always, the 11 feast looks amazing! Merry Xmas Heren!!

  • At 12/24/2012 9:29 am, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    great looking food and presentation. did you find out where the pacific oysters are from? they look like either Coffin Bay or Tasmanian St Helens to me.

  • At 12/24/2012 9:29 am, Blogger PiCkLeS said…

    Wow what a feast! Another year of fabulous blogging Helen. merry Christmas xo


  • At 12/24/2012 10:47 am, Blogger Jacq said…

    Love your Stomachs Eleven posts! Merry Christmas Helen!

  • At 12/24/2012 11:00 am, Anonymous Eha said…

    What a fantastic feast sans pareil! Thank you for posting and do hope you have a wonderfully happy festive season!

  • At 12/24/2012 11:03 am, Blogger .. said…

    What a masterpiece, thanks for sharing, merry christmas!

  • At 12/24/2012 12:54 pm, Blogger Phuoc'n Delicious said…

    I wish I had friends like Mr & Mrs Pig Flyin', it's always a magnificent feast when it involves them. You are very lucky! Merry Christmas Helen. See you in the new year!

  • At 12/24/2012 10:20 pm, Anonymous gaby @ lateraleating said…

    Amazing feast as usual! I find this particularly interesting because it's mostly seafood, which I deeply love. Eggplant and chocolate??!! I'd have to try that one day. Merry Xmas Helen!

  • At 12/25/2012 7:20 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    The Pig Flyin's are magicians. I want all the savoury things. All of them! Double savoury time over the dessert time, and we know how rare a feeling that is in my world! Well done, PFs. And Helen, for the beautiful photography.

    P.S. Miss you, Helen. And Merry Christmas :)

  • At 12/25/2012 1:18 pm, Blogger missklicious said…

    That looks like an amazing feast, especially the scampi and calamari!

  • At 12/26/2012 8:09 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    woahhh everything looks incredible especially the scampi and sfogliatelle! merry christmas!!!

  • At 12/26/2012 8:42 pm, Blogger The Life of Clare said…

    This post was mouth watering! You made all of the food look and sound fabulous!

  • At 12/26/2012 11:11 pm, Blogger Sarah said…

    Wow, wow, wow! I love reading these posts about the epic meals you have with Pig Flyin'!

    Everything looks so beautiful, and made with such love and care!

    I love sfogliatelle - I remember practically inhaling them when I was travelling through Naples.

    Merry Christmas Helen! :)

    xox Sarah

  • At 12/29/2012 7:52 pm, Blogger thesuzchef said…

    So much food! How do you guys walk out of there afterwards?!
    Christmas is all about spending time with family & friends accompanied by great food - glad to see you celebrated it in the best form possible!

  • At 12/30/2012 9:25 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    wow Helen.. wow... SO much food! I would be food coma indefinitely if that was me! And sorbet and sparkling? sounds interesting.. I might give that a try one day or maybe even tomorrow, just in time for NYE hehe

  • At 12/31/2012 8:20 am, Anonymous gummi baby said…

    What a wonderful departure from the usual ham/turkey, Christmas pudding combo. I love the idea of serving all seafood dishes but usually find that much seafood too rich. The way they have been served here defies that thought but so much work! Thanks again for sharing! :D

  • At 12/31/2012 4:18 pm, Anonymous RagingCravings said…

    Amazing dinner! Especially love the fish. What a great end to 2012 for you.

  • At 1/01/2013 10:20 am, Anonymous Anna @ The Littlest Anchovy said…

    I love your Stomachs Eleven dinners! I was going to tell you have amazing the oysters and the king fish looked...but then I read on and I can't fit everything that I loved about this feast into one comment! Happy New Year Helen - It was great to meet you this year!

  • At 1/01/2013 10:06 pm, Anonymous Sara - Belly Rumbles said…

    As always an amazing feast. I am reading away and thinking, this must be the final dish? Nope it just kept going, deliciously amazing.

  • At 1/03/2013 11:02 am, Anonymous Nic@diningwithastud said…

    I am in awe of the feast! Hope you had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Helen :)

  • At 1/03/2013 1:30 pm, Blogger Vivian - vxdollface said…

    I love your Christmas feast posts! This is so amazing, trying very hard to not be jealous haha :P

    I have a soft spot for rotolo :) the only restaurant I've had it at was at Alio during their pasta making class! I prefer sydney rock to pacific as well for the same reasons.

    Hope you had a good New Years celebration as well!

  • At 1/03/2013 5:02 pm, Anonymous Forager said…

    I always enjoy the Stomachs Eleven posts - your crew truly know how to eat well! Loving the look of that BBQ too - we're in the market for a new one now so I'll have to do some research into that.

    A very happy 2013 to you Helen!

  • At 1/04/2013 6:43 pm, Anonymous Christina @ The Hungry Australian said…

    What an incredible feast, Helen. Lucky you, enjoying such an amazing meal.

  • At 1/06/2013 4:23 pm, Anonymous Trisha said…

    What an amazing feast! Also enjoyed the stories behind the different dishes, it's so interesting to know how different cultures celebrate Christmas.

  • At 1/13/2013 9:06 am, Anonymous Gareth said…

    Happy New Year Helen, this all looks so insanely good, can I come to Christmas at your place next year. Would love the recipe for the kingfish pastrami and desserts. Very impressive!.


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