Foie gras is the food that divides the dinner table. On the one side there are those who consider the fatty duck or goose liver the ultimate delicacy; while on the other there are those whose concerns over its production make them push their plates aside.
Literally French for "fat liver", foie gras is produced by the process of force-feeding, during which a bird is administered its feed using a funnel fitted with a long tube. This results in the bird's liver becoming enlarged with an increased fat content which in medical terms is referred to as a disease called "hepatic lipidosis".
While the method of foie gras production isn't practised in Britain, the product is legally available. Last year the City of York Council was to consider a motion calling for a ban on the sale of foie gras but after a consultation took this off the political menu.
The south-west of France is the major foie gras producing area. After preparation, the livers are soaked overnight and then marinated in Armagnac, port or Madeira. Foie gras is sold fresh or cooked and for the cooked variety, the livers are baked in a bain-marie and then chilled.
Foie gras has a rich flavour and the texture is silky smooth. It's usually served in thin slices at the start of a meal with a sweet wine and is best eaten simply spread on toasted brioche. Small slices can also be fried and used to top meat or fish dishes.