Lyonnais cheese dip with herbs

Lyonnais Cheese Dip with Herbs
Lyonnais Cheese Dip with Herbs

Well, this recipe in French is called cervelle de canut which literally translates to ‘Silk worker’s brain’.  Sounds appetising doesn’t it?

This recipe originates from Lyon and the name is thought to refer to the Canuts (the Lyonnais silk workers) and their ‘soft’ brains, reflecting the low esteem in which the silk workers were held by the more affluent society of 19th century Lyon.  No wonder they started several revolts throughout the 1800’s, being amongst the first in history to rise up and protest against their shoddy working conditions (and the ‘soft cheese’ wise crack too, no doubt!)

The recipe from Gabriel Gaté is based on local fromage frais (fresh white cheese) with herbs, seasoning and vinegar and results soft, spreadable dip often served with baked potatoes.  It’s pretty easy and basically an exercise in chopping and mixing rather than cooking per se.


  • 50 g (8½ oz) creamed cottage cheese or quark (fromage frais)
  • 50 ml (2 oz) crème fraîche
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 3 tbsp finely sliced chives
  • 6–8 small–medium potatoes, baked in the oven (skin on)

How to do it

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius, wash your potatoes, pierce the skins with a fork and wrap in foil.  Bake these in the oven for 40 minutes to 1 hour depending on size.

Okay, so I cheated and just threw it all in together... either way,  just do what suits you!
Okay, so I cheated and just threw it all in together… either way, just do what suits you!

Okay, now you can start the dip by finely chopping the shallot, garlic, chives and parsley.  Make the effort here to chop as finely as you can (you don’t want big chunks of fresh garlic etc.) as it really improves the dish.

Mix together the two cheeses and then whisk in the olive oil and red wine vinegar before stirring through the remaining ingredients (shallot, garlic, chives and parsley).

Refrigerate until ready to use.


Dip and enjoy... just don't think of brains...
Dip and enjoy… just don’t think of brains…

Remove the potatoes from the oven and serve alongside the dip with a garnish of chopped chives.  Enjoy!

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