Cervelle de canut, a yummy cheese dip from Lyon, sounds romantic if you don’t speak French; if you do, well …, it means “silk weaver’s brains” – eew! Makes one think twice about the recipe doesn’t it?
Created sometime in the mid 19th century in Lyon, it’s named after the silk workers of that time. Now whether it’s an insult or a tribute, one can only guess but likening one’s brains to mush is probably leaning slightly toward the first supposition, don’t you think?
Traditionally, the cheese used for this is Faisselle, a type of fresh cream cheese or fromage blanc; the name faiselle actually refers to the tiny colander that the cheese is made in. The cheese itself is thick, almost yoghurt like and can be eaten sweet or savoury, as in today’s recipe, Cervelle de Canut.
When I first learned to make this recipe in the mid 90’s in Lyon, I was informed that should I not be able to find faisselle, to substitute it with cottage cheese, with just a touch of cream. And that’s how I’ve always made it in the UK. However, if you can get faiselle, use it and also omit the cream.
How does one eat it? Well, it’s a dip and I’ve had it with crunchy vegetables, with bread sticks, on jacket potatoes or just with soldiers (little strips of toast).
I’ve kept this pretty basic, with just 2 herbs, a little garlic, tomatoes and the obligatory wine vinegar. I absolutely love using roasted tomatoes in this recipe, if I have any and in the summer I always do! Fresh tomatoes will do nicely too. You can add more herbs if you like, tarragon, chervil, whatever you fancy, but make sure they go together! You can also increase the vinegar to your taste. I quite like a high tang in it, so am always more generous with the vinegar than the recipe calls for.
I’ve also added some fresh red chillies to the mix in the past, because you know how I love my chillies!
Leave the cottage cheese lumpy or zap it in a blender for a smoother look, up to you.
My only problem is that I’ve usually eaten half of it before it gets to the table – it’s that good!
If you fancy more dips and sauces, check out the following page:
Cervelle de Canut, a cheese dip from Lyon. Can be made a couple of hours ahead.
Cervelle de Canut
Cervelle de Canut, a cheese dip from Lyon.
Can be made a couple of hours ahead.