Lunch never managed to make itself a very complicated affair on our holiday in Provence. Enid Blyton used Famous Five propaganda to imbue my childhood with the notion that food eaten outdoors always tastes best, and I’ve still not quite got over the conviction that she’s right. Happily, we were well equipped for outdoor eating, with a gorgeous terrace with parasols, two large tables and plenty of comfy chairs. Just down the hill was a shop specialising in foie gras. I think you can probably see where this is going.
The foie gras in the top picture is a mi-cuit bloc. This means the liver has been minced and seasoned, before being gently cooked. (I wasn’t able to find a whole mi-cuit liver to show you, unfortunately.) Mi-cuit foie gras is a very different product from the foie gras you can buy in jars; it’s cooked very briefly (unlike a jar, which will get a couple of hours’ cooking time) and needs to be kept in the fridge and eaten quickly. Its texture is almost buttery, and the taste is sublime, and not in the least livery. Don’t be put off by the cheaper bloc – it’s often just as good as a whole liver, especially if you’re lucky enough to find one made by one of France’s many proud, small producers. Goose foie gras is more expensive than duck, but try both – you may, like me, find that you prefer the delicate flavour of the smaller duck liver. Try drinking a good dessert wine alongside the liver.
We ate this foie gras terrine at Bistrot Découverte in St Remy de Provence (mi-cuit again, made from small pieces of liver pressed in the restaurant’s kitchen). It was served with a sourdough bread and a dried fruit compote. You can make out the duck’s yellow fat and the fleur de sel that the chef seasoned the liver with.
When eating foie gras back at the house, we accompanied it with fresh fruit (figs and wetly ripe white peaches are fantastic with a good foie gras) and slices of toasted brioche. Be careful buying brioche for foie gras outside France – unaccountably, most of the brioche you can buy in the UK is packed with vanilla flavouring, which is just downright wrong with a delicately flavoured liver. I also enjoy foie gras with a good fruit jelly – a sharp crab apple or fragrant quince jelly work very well against the smooth creaminess of the liver.
My brother, who lives in Bordeaux, sent a foie gras to us last Christmas, accompanied by a jar of pink peppercorns (a berry, not a true pepper), which he insisted we try with the foie gras. I ground them up in my mortar and pestle and (as usual), he was right; they were brilliant with it. Pink peppercorns are hard to find in the UK outside those mixtures of white, green, black and pink pepper for transparent grinders, so I was delighted to discover a tree heavy with them in the garden we rented. We picked a few bunches and set to them with mortar and pestle. Delicious.