Foie Gras with Fava Bean Pesto in an Amarone Reduction

Fans of Thomas Harris’s ‘Silence of the Lambs’ may recognize this recipe as a nod to a quote from Hannibal Lecter, when he warns Clarice Starling against pushing him too far with her questions:

A census taker tried to quantify me once. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a big Amarone. Go back to school, little Starling.

Although the Amarone was changed to chianti in the film (allegedly the screenplay writers thought that most movie goers wouldn’t know what an Amarone was), I thought I’d stick with Lecter’s original food and wine pairing (which as it turns out is actually something of a hidden joke). However, I did opt to swap out the census taker’s liver with something decidedly less macabre, but equally fitting of Lecter’s gourmet tastes: foie gras. Although it’s a somewhat controversial ingredient (seek out humane foie if you’re an animal lover), in this case, it’s a better option than sticking with the original recipe. It’s also rich and versatile, and works well with the fava beans, which I turned into a pesto as a nod to Lecter’s time in Florence. To cut the fattiness of the foie, I made an Amarone reduction- if you can, pick up a second bottle, or halve the recipe for the sauce so you can drink a little of the wine with your foie and favas.

This recipe makes four to six appetizer-sized servings. If you’re in need of a main course, why not go for a full themed menu, and follow this dish up with a nice roasted rack of lamb?


  • 750 ml bottle of Amarone
  • 6 pieces sliced foie gras
  • 14 g cornstarch incorporated into a little cold water
  • 75 g butter
  • 250 g fava beans
  • splash of lemon juice
  • 90 g water
  • 225 g olive oil
  • 1 Thai chilli with seeds
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • Salt and pepper

For butter glaze

  • 25 g blanched fava beans
  • 5 g butter
  • Splash of water
  • 3 leaves fresh mint, thinly sliced


  1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, reduce one bottle of Amarone by boiling gently over medium heat. Reduce wine by 2/3 and then whisk in the cornstarch-water slurry. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until sauce thickens and the starch is cooked out.
  2. Shell and then blanch the fava beans in a pot of boiling water. Shock the cooked fava beans in ice water and peel.
  3. Add all but 25g of the fava beans, along with the garlic, Thai chilli pepper with its seeds, lemon juice and water to a mortar and pestle and grind into a smooth paste (alternatively, you can do this in a food processor). When the pesto starts to become smooth, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, and add salt and pepper to taste.

  4. When the pesto and wine reduction are finished, season the foie slices with salt and pepper and sear in a dry warm pan, add butter and baste until tender to touch. Foie gras cooks quickly- do not overcook!

  5. Let the foie rest while you plate the rest of the components.

  6. Butter glaze the reserved fava beans by putting a splash of water in a sauce pan. Once the butter starts to boil and evaporate, add the remaining 25g of fava beans and butter. Remove from heat and swirl the butter until emulsified. Be careful not to break the butter if this happens as a drop of water and swirl the pan until it incorporates and comes back together. Finish with mint.

  7. Plate with a dollop of the pesto, the foie in the middle and a small taste of the reduction on the side.