A cookery lesson in foie gras

Just last year, foie gras was like a mystery food from France to me. A sophisticated-sounding mystery, making it all the more intriguing. I knew it’s French, and it’s some sort of food made from the insides of some animal. And it’s served at the tables of expensive restaurants. That was about it.


Whatcha lookin’ at?
Photo: Jaroslav Novak

Until a beautiful, lazy day by the lake last autumn, when a French classmate of mine followed a duck halfway round the huge lake, looking for an opportunity to pounce on it.

“We could make a pâté de canard en croûte with the meat and a foie gras with the liver,” he explained. Are the French always this efficient with their resources?

Foie gras literally translates to “fat liver”. But it’s not just any fat liver. Which fat livers can be considered foie gras is actually stipulated by French law: liver of duck or goose, fattened by force-feeding corn with a gavage. And this French law goes further to state that “foie gras belongs to the protected cultural and gastronomical heritage of France”. It’s Very Important Fat Liver.

Duck is a Bordeaux speciality. Go on a cookery holiday in Bordeaux during the right season and you could score a visit to a duck farm. (Don’t worry, the ducks are still waddling around and not all on death roll.) The typical fat duck season is October to March, but be sure to chat with an expert at NotInTheGuidBooks.com and we’ll check if a duck farm visit is on the schedule. If it’s not, it could be local butcher, winery, fish farm, game farm or cheese maker season instead!

Cookery_holiday_Bordeaux_chef_marleneWhichever season it is, the welcome at the tastefully restored French farmhouse stays warm all year round. Chef and host Marlene, who has been cooking since she was old enough to hold a spoon, will share her passion for cooking. Learn her family secrets passed down over generations. Gain the skills and insight into local life to cook fabulous meals that will “make your belly smile”.

But we’re digressing. We were talking about ducks. Visit Marlene on this cookery holiday, and you could learn to cook duck with orange sauce.

“Marlene and Marc [her husband] are fabulous, very relaxed, very welcoming, easy going, easy to talk to,” said Karen, a recent guest on Marlene’s pastry making holiday. Click here to read her full review of her amazing holiday.

So many things to learn, so many ways to cook duck. Check out our full range of cookery holidays at NotInTheGuidBooks.com.

If you were wondering, my classmate never caught the duck. Though he did succeed in giving us uninformed non-French people a lesson on foie gras. And he did cook us that pâté de canard en croûte with another duck.