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 & 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.
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 & 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 fancy, tarragon, chervil, whatever you fancy but make sure they go together!
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!
Cervelle de Canut
- 500g cottage cheese, blended smooth if desired
- 1 tbsp double cream
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar or lemon juice
- handful chives, finely chopped
- handful flat Italian parsley, finely chopped
- 2 tomatoes, fresh or roasted
- pinch salt
- dash of freshly ground black black pepper
- Mix all the ingredients together, cover and let sit in the fridge for about 20 minutes if you have time. If not, it'll taste just as lovely freshly made.
- Serve as suggested above - as a dip is always great!
Can be made a couple of hours ahead.