I don't want to get into a political debate about foie gras, but every time I order it someone remarks on the methods used to raise the geese and ducks. Animal rights activists say the fowl are dragged, kicking and screaming (or flapping and quacking or honking) to have funnels feeding huge amounts of food shoved down their unwilling throats. Others say that the animals run, quacking happily, to the farmers, actually enjoying the force-feeding process. The truth is probably somewhere in between the two extremes, although today, I'm hoping the method leans more towards the animals being raised humanely. Foie gras comes from geese and ducks that are force-fed (yes, with a funnel) large amounts of cooked corn two to three times a day during the last few months of their lives. This results in livers that are up to 10 times bigger than normal. It is rich, fatty and so delicate that if cooked incorrectly, it melts away like butter owing to its high fat content. The livers are 'graded' according to quality - look for a smooth exterior and even colour with no dark or bloody spots. The best livers are cooked whole or sliced, while lesser grades are often chopped or pureed and mixed with other ingredients, or used to flavour or enrich sauces. Raw foie gras is available whole or in thick slices from city'super (Times Square, Causeway Bay, tel: 25062888; www.citysuper.com.hk ) and Great (basement, Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2918 9986). The texture (and fat content) is similar to butter - firm when chilled, more pliable at room temperature. For most preparations, the large veins are removed. Poke the liver (which is composed of two lobes) with the tip of a paring knife to find the veins and pull each one to the surface - it's essential the liver is at room temperature, or else it will break apart during this process. Slowly but firmly pull the vein and it should come out of the liver in one piece. Cut away any dark spots. The liver is then gently re-shaped by pressing it together (it's so fatty it fuses together), marinated and then cooked. The easiest way to prepare foie gras is to slice and pan-fry it. The pan has to be hot enough to sear the outside of the slices and prevent it from melting. Season it lightly with salt and pepper. It is often served with a sweet sauce but I like it better with something tart (such as sauteed apples) to cut the richness. Terrine of foie gras is made by pressing the marinated, seasoned liver into a ceramic or glass container and baking it in a water bath. It's then weighted with a flat board, which helps to shape the terrine and press the liver together so it's firmer. Chill completely and cut using a sharp, hot knife. Foie gras is also available ready-to-eat in tins or jars - the best will say 'entier', meaning it is made from the whole liver rather than tiny pieces. Look on the ingredients' label to check that it's pure foie gras, seasonings and/or black truffles. Cheaper products are often made with pork, pork fat and other extenders. Because foie gras is so expensive, it is usually served at celebrations; in France it is traditionally eaten at Christmas.