Annabelle Baker discusses the production of foie gras.
I want my chickens roaming free in paddocks of green pasture and eating nothing but grass and the occasional worm – I don’t purchase or eat eggs that come from anything less, but my position on the production of foie gras is far less passionate and, to be honest, I have somewhat double standards on the issue. Geese have been ‘force-fed’ for more than 5000 years and, in fact, it was the Egyptians that are said to have noticed how migrating geese would naturally plump up for the long trip ahead of them. It wasn’t long until the Romans noticed how geese could overeat and that their lack of a gag reflex allowed them to consume copious amounts of figs and, in turn, enlarge their liver and provide a prized delicacy of the era. The fall of Rome would almost see the practice of foie gras disappear and it is said that if it wasn’t for the Jews taking the technique around Europe it may have been lost in history forever. The very rich livers provided Jews with kosher fat to cook with, while olive oil and dairy fat were scarce. Adopted and loved by France, the technique was, and will possibly always be, synonymous with French gastronomy. With the production and consumption of foie gras now steep in French history, the rise of pâté, terrines and parfaits was seen all throughout the 17th century. This ingenious method of preserving meat by the addition of animal or dairy fat is making somewhat of a comeback and artisan producers are popping up all over the country. Chicken liver parfait that has been perfectly protected with a seal of clarified butter, served with crunchy sourdough and a cornichon for some wanted acidity, is something not to be refused. I admit the technique in which foie gras is produced is not the most ethical, and for that reason banned in Australia and many parts of the world, but it is an important part of food history that deserves to be recognised for its mark on history and, let’s face it, its delicious contribution to gastronomy and its means for preserving food through less opulent times.
Walnut and Muscatel Bread Recipe Makes 3 loaves
• 500g plain flour (organic if possible) • 7g dried yeast • 300ml warm water • 1 tsp salt • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil • 2 tbs sugar • 1.5 tbs spice mix • 150g dried muscatels • 100g walnuts • 300ml warm water • Spice mix • 50g cinnamon • 50g allspice • 25g cloves • 25g ground ginger • 12g nutmeg • 3 tbs cardamom
1. Activate the yeast in the warm water for five minutes. 2. Combine the our, salt, oil and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. 3. Mix brie y with the dough hook on a low speed to combine the dry ingredients. 4. Slowly add the yeast and water. 5. Increase the speed to medium and leave for 15 minutes or until the dough will stretch and allows you to see through it. 6. Add the walnuts and muscatels. Mix until combined. 7. Place in an oiled bowl, leave to prove for 45 minutes or until doubled in size. 8. Divide the dough into three even pieces and form into a baguette shape. 9. Place on a floured baking tray and leave to prove for a further 30 minutes. 10. Bake in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes. Bread is ready when if tapped on the bottom, the echoing sound is hollow. 11. Leave to cool. 12. Slice thinly and toast in the oven for a crisp finish.
Pork and Pistachio Terrine Recipe
• 1.8kg pork • 200g back fat • 10g fennel seeds • 1 white onion • 1 tsp thyme leaves • 1 egg • 1/2 cup whole pistachio • Salt and white pepper • Sliced pancetta or thinly sliced bacon
1. Ask your butcher to mince the pork and back fat on a 8mm blade. 2. In a generous glug of olive oil, sweat the onions, thyme and fennel seeds until translucent and soft. Leave to cool. 3. Combine the pork mince, back fat, cooled onions and the egg, mix until it becomes sticky and forms a ball (slapping the mixture on the side of the bowl will help it combine). 4. Add a large pinch of salt and pepper along with the pistachio nuts and mix until evenly dispersed throughout. (Frying a small amount of the mixture to check the seasoning at this stage will help you get a perfect end result). 5. Line a terrine mould with greaseproof paper. 6. Line the tin with sliced pancetta, length ways and with a slight overlap. 7. Pack the mix in to the mould making sure you pat the tin frequently to remove any air pockets. 8. Cover the top of the terrine with the remaining pancetta slices. 9. Tightly cover the top of the terrine with greaseproof paper and a layer of aluminum foil. 10. Fill a large baking tray with boiling water in an oven preheated to 160 degrees. 11. Place the terrine in the water bath. 12. Bake for an hour and then remove the cover, continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until 72 degrees in the centre. 13. Leave to rest and cool to room temperature before placing two tins of tomatoes on top to lightly press in the refrigerator overnight. 14. Serve at room temperature with slices of crusty bread.