Philip Howard's Foie Gras Ballotine...

For well over a decade The Square has been one of our favourite restaurants.  The chef-proprietor is Philip Howard - a very talented, if mercurial chef, and The Square has held two michelin stars since 1998. So you can imagine that I couldn't have been happier when The Square cookbook finally thudded it's way through my door...  
I'd actually waited for over a year for it to arrive, and the anticipation was palpable.  I was absolutely delighted to find a number of signature dishes in the book - including one of my favourites - the foie gras ballotine. One of us will invariably order when dining there, and it had to be the first recipe I'd try from the book.  Actually, it turned out to be a very simple recipe, with absolutely outstanding results - it's not the cheapest thing to prepare, but for a feast I absolutely urge you to have a go...

Philip gives instructions on how to de-vein the foie gras.  There's also an excellent description with photographs in the Club Gascon book by Pascal Aussignac. 

I'd actually purchased duck foie gras which has already been deveined, so I skipped these parts of the recipe.


Foie Gras
2 lobes of fresh foie-gras, weighing about 750g in total
1.5kg rock salt

Golden Raisin Purée
200ml apple juice
300g golden raisins
100g caster sugar
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Camomile, apricot and sauternes jelly
250g caster sugar
150g ripe apricots, halved and stoned
10g camomile tea
20g acacia honey
6 gelatine leaves
50ml Sauternes

To serve

Each lobe of foie gras will have a larger and smaller piece.  Carefully prise these apart and cut the connecting vein to separate them completely.  Scatter a third of the salt over the base of a dish.  Gently place the lobes on the salt and press lightly. Cover them with the remaining salt, ensuring the foie gras has contact with the salt. Leave to cure at room temperature for three hours.

Curing the foie gras in sea-salt
Curing the foie gras in sea-salt
De-Veining the Foie Gras

Gently life the foie gras out of the salt; it should now be soft and supple.  Rinse under cold running water, not excessively, but ensuring no salt remains in the creases and crevices.  Pat the foie gras dry.  Each piece has a network of veins and arteries concealed within it and, while it is soft, it is relatively easy to excavate them with a butter knife or smallish blunt knife.  Start with the two smaller pieces.  The process is intrusive and do not worry of you feel you are damaging the liver - this is inevitable, but in all the manoeuvring of the flat knife the underside of the foie gras will remain intact.  Try not to scrape past the boundaries of the edges of the foie gras.  Two main arteries enter the smaller piece of foie gras, one in the centre of the upper side and the other at one end.  Use your fingers to locate these and, starting with the one in the centre, pinch the artery, raise it gently and, using the knife, methodically scrape away the foie gras to reveal the network of arteries that run into the liver from this point. Continue to hold the main artery and, when you have unearthed the finer ones, pull slightly harder, teasing underneath the tips of the arteries until one by one they pull away and uproot themselves from the liver.  Discard the artery.  Now pinch the main artery where it enters the end of the lobe.  This one fans out underneath the first network and spreads its capillaries to the sides and other end.  Gently scrape the knife against this main tube and follow it down towards the other end, revealing it and its offshoots as you go.  Repeat the same process as above to remove this slightly larger network.  Some arteries may snap; gentle investigation with the knife will reveal them and they can simply be pulled out with tweezers.  Whilst the foie gras is opened out, season the exposed centre with a little salt and pepper, fold the outside towards the centre in an attempt to reshape it, then gently transfer it to a tray and set aside in a cold place.   Repeat for the smaller piece.  Follow a very similar process for the two larger pieces of foie gras.  Again, one artery enters the middle of the lobe and the other the thick end and they fan out in a similar fashion to those in the smaller lobe.  Once all the foie gras has been de-veined, put it in the fridge for about 30 minutes, to firm it up to the point where it can be handled.

[Now you know why I bought some de-veined foie gras!!!]

Lay a sheet of cling film out on the work surface so it is running away from you. Repeat with the second length, ensuring it overlaps the first by about 10cm. Similarly lay 2 more sheets on top of the first to yield a large sheet of double-thickness cling film.  Place one large and one small piece of the foie gras in the middle, towards the end near you, and roll it up in a tight, sausage-like ballotine.

Once cured, the foie gras is softer and more malleable

Roll the foie gras into a ballotine

Secure with one end with a piece of string. Hold the other end of cling film and roll the ballotine along the length of the work surface - this will tighten the roll. Secure the second end with a piece of string. Repeat with the the other 2 pieces of foie gras. [I put the smooth surface on the bottom of the parcel, to ensure that when rolled up it would give a cleaner edge]

Fill a large container with iced water, lower the ballotines and leave them for 2 hours. Transfer to the fridge and leave to set overnight.
The ballotine needs to be iced for two hours, 
and then set in the fridge overnight

Raisin purée

Bring the apple juice to a simmer, pout it on to the raisins and leave to soak overnight. The next day, drain, reserving the apple juice. Put the sugar and 25ml water in a heavy-based pan and place over a high heat. Cook until the water evaporates and the sugar starts to caramelise. Swirl the pan carefully and when the sugar has turned a right golden colour, add the raisins and vinegar and cook for 1 minute. Transfer to a blender and blend to a smooth purée, adding a little of the reserved apple juice if it is too thick to churn in the machine. Pass through a fine sieve, transfer to a squeezy bottle and set aside. 

Camomile, apricot and Sauternes jelly 

Place the sugar in a heavy-based pan and cover with 250ml water. Please over a high heat and bring to the boil. Add the apricots, turn the heat down to return it to a base simmer., then cover and cook for 15 minutes, until the apricots are soft. Stir in the camomile tea, remove from the heat and leave to cool. Drain through a colander into a bowl and them through a fine sieve into a saucepan. Discard the apricots. Ad the honey to the pan and return to the boil for 30 seconds. Turn off the hear. Soak the gelatine in cold water for about 5 minutes, until softened. Remove from the water, add to the pan and whisk briefly until dissolved. Stir in the Sauternes, then pour into a bowl and leave to cool. Cover and chill.

To serve 

Lightly toast the brioche. Using a knife dipped in hot water, cut 16 slices of foie gras from the ballotines, each about 8mm thick. Peel of the cling film. Scoop 16 dessertspoons of jelly from the bowl and set aside on a chilled plate or tray. Lay out 8 large chilled plates. Place 2 slices of ballotine on each plate and sit a scoop of jelly alongside each. Garnish the plates with several 1cm dots of raison purée.

Serve immediately, while still cool, with toasted brioche on the side.

The finished product, absolutely delicious!

Yes I cheated - I didn't have time to make the jelly and the purée, but I did have some excellent F&M Honey and Sauternes savour in the fridge, which actually though a little dense, worked perfectly.

You can find more fabulous recipes in The Square cookbook, and the Club Gascon book has a whole section dedicated to foie gras recipes. >