Foie Gras – A delicate ingredient

Foie gras is a peculiar food. Each December we collectively rush to buy tonnes of the stuff, before it is lost to our conciousness the next month. Lockdowns have only enhanced this trend, with December 2020 seeing the highest interest in foie gras since 2015. With this in mind, it’s likely that foie gras will continue to be a must-have Christmas treat in 2021, much like last year.

What is foie gras?

Foie gras is the liver of a force-fed goose or duck. The fat, enlarged liver is considered a delicacy in some countries. The production process is sometimes controversial because the birds are force-fed repeatedly throughout their lives, which also makes them unwell.

This feeding process is what makes their liver fattier, producing the foie gras. This can be stressful to the birds, leading some countries to outlaw forced-feeding, including much of the European Union and Canada.

Is foie gras banned?

Norway was the first country in Europe to ban foie gras production via force-feeding in 1974. Production of foie gras by forcce-feeding has been banned in the UK since 2006, however it remains legal to import, sell and consume foie gras.

Some American states have seem complex changse to foie gras laws, with a Californian ban coming into place in 2004, only to be lifted in 2015, and finally reimposed in 2019.

What is ethical foie gras?

Ethical foie gras is an emerging field, with proponents across the world. In many countries and states where foie gras is banned, it’s banned via the exclusion of products where “force-feeding of a bird for the purpose of enlarging its liver beyond normal size” takes place. This means that any duck liver which in enlarged via a method besides force-feeding is legal and able to be bought and sold.

Ethical foie gras producers often talking at length about how making the birds as comfortable is an essential step in producing foie gras, without force-feeding.

“If you make sure the geese are relaxed and happy, you’ll be rewarded with the gift of fatty livers. That is God’s way of thanking us for providing so much good food for the geese,”

Eduardo Sousa

Are there vegan alternatives to foie gras?

Vegan alternatives to foie gras could include vegetable paté made from olives or soybeans. Some people have suggested to me tofu with truffle sauce.

There are also some more modern, non-traditional substitutes for foie gras that can be used by both omnivores and vegans alike. These include the use of insects as a source of protein, which is still an emerging markets.

It is true that these substitutes are not quite as palatable or tasty as foie gras, but they can be made to taste very much like the original thing.

How should I store foie gras?

Foie gras lasts longest when stored in a fridge. After removing foie gras from the fridge, give it 20-30 minutes to warm up modestly before serving.

Foie gras should never be frozen. If you do, the texture will be lessened, and the flavours will be less supple after desfrosting.

How should I serve foie gras?

Foie gras can be served in a variety of ways: seared, poached, or prepared even into mousse. Great British Chef have a range of exciting recipes.

What drinks go well with foie gras?

Foie gras goes well with a variety of wines.

Depending on your personal preferences and the occasion, you can stick to a more classic match with a Sauternes or Riesling, or stretch out and try some new flavour combinations with a Barolo or Chardonnay.

Where can I buy foie gras in the UK?

Because foie gras is not produced in the UK, and all supplies are imported, it is uncommon to find foie gras in most food stores. Instead it is most commonly found at specialty food stores.

Buying foie gras online is generally easier, as finding a suitable supplier can take just a few minutes. Here are some of my favourite UK foie gras suppliers below:

Fine Food Specialist

A wide-range of pate and foie gras. Delivery terms are good, with same-day delivery available in London.

Good Food Network

Good entry-point foie gras; fairly priced. At time of writing two brands are available.

French Click

French Click’s website is hard to use, but offers a range of french pate which you may struggle to find elsewhere.

Please, get in touch if you have any questions about foie gras.