Cervelle de Canut Cheese Dip – Anthony Femia – Dani Valent

An easy dip for your next gathering and a great backstory to share with your friends

I love dishes that are more than the sum of their parts: really delicious but so easy to make that you feel like you’re cheating. This Cervelle de Canut definitely fits into that category. It’s a flexible friend, great with crackers and also good to dollop over roast potatoes or steak, or to dot on oysters.

Even better, it has an interesting story. The dip is a specialty of Lyon, France’s third largest city, sitting on the confluence of two rivers in the south-east of the country. Lyon was famous for its silk industry and ‘cervelle de canut’ means silk worker’s brain. No-one is quite sure why but it’s interesting to speculate as you eat it!

See below for more cheese dip ideas and for a little more about Lyon and its silk workers.

I made this video with the incredibly knowledgeable Anthony Femia of Maker & Monger at Prahran Market.

Serves: 6-8 as a starter or accompaniment
Time: 10 minutes


  • 250 grams quark, fromage frais or fromage blanc
  • 100 grams crème fraîche
  • 40 grams extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped (see Tips)
  • 1 eschallot, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon tarragon leaves, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
  • finely grated lemon zest


  1. Add all ingredients except lemon zest to mixing bowl. Combine for 5 sec/speed 5, then scrape down and mix 8 sec/speed 4.
  2. Turn into a bowl and sprinkle generously with lemon zest or refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight to marinate (see Tips) before sprinkling with zest.


  • Sometimes I don’t mind a bit of chopping but you can let your Thermomix do the work! Place garlic, eschallot and tarragon into mixing bowl and chop for 2 sec/speed 7. Add cheeses, olive oil and finely chopped chives then continue with recipe.
  • Leaving the dip before serving allows the flavours to develop and mellow.
  • Keeps for 2 days in the refrigerator.


  • I love Anthony’s ideas for other cheese dips:
    • avocado and feta
    • cheddar, pimento (small, sweet peppers), roasted capsicum and cornichons
    • blue cheese dip (recipe coming soon)
  • Have you tried Anthony’s boat-shaped Khachapuri? It’s cheesy heaven!
  • For another interesting use of quark see my quark dumplings, part of a great family meal with two types of dumplings.

This dip is more than the sum of its parts. Want more dishes that are surprisingly easy and ridiculously delicious? Try these:

  • Cauliflower Hummus: roasted cauliflower is the base of a deeply tasty dip
  • Amazake: two ingredients turn into a fermented sweetener that can be used in drinks and desserts
  • Strawberry Gazpacho: a guess-the-ingredient easy soup
  • Virtual Bacon Dust: the killer condiment that tastes like bacon but isn’t!
  • Have you tried Anthony’s boat-shaped Khachapuri? It’s cheesy heaven!

Do you love cheese as much as I do? Then check out this delicious Blue Cheese Dip and my Food Chat – Cheese Platter Chatter with Anthony Femia and discover his tips for creating the perfect cheese platter.

This dip is also delicious over a steak. To learn all about the perfect cut of beef check out my Beef Banter with Butcher Gary McBean. And while we’re on the subject of beef take a look at some of my favourite beef dishes.

Did you know Dani Valent gift vouchers are available right here? They make the perfect present for the Thermo-lover in your life.

Learn about matching cheese and drinks with Anthony in our fascinating cheese chat.

More about this video

  • I love my Elk coat and shirt.
  • Food writer Bill Buford packed up his American family and moved them to Lyon where he studied to be a cook. This impassioned and funny article gives an insight into the city’s food culture.
  • Why might this dip be called ‘silk worker’s brain’? King Louis XIV turned Lyon into France’s centre of silk production in the 17th century and, by the end of the 18th century, it’s estimated that around one-third of the city’s 15,000 people were working in the industry. As the industrial revolution took production out of the hands of skilled experts, Lyon became a hotbed of early worker uprisings, which were suppressed by the military on four occasions. Perhaps ‘cervelle de canut’ was an insult by the affronted upper classes to the rowdy silk workers.
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I love my Elk top & Obus pants

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