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La cervelle de canut – French goat’s curd ricotta and herb dip

This amazing dish is from Lyon in the 19th century.  It is usually served in small bowls alongside a freshly dressed simple salad and toasted walnut bread. I have a bread maker and made the walnut bread with this and it does work beautifully. I also served it with some olive crackers which were wonderful with it too – so you could try olive bread or any favourite, crusty bread you love. It is such a light and fresh spread that it just seems to work with so many flavours.
Bizarrely the name means “silk waver’s brains” as Lyon was an affluent silk centre of France at the time and weavers lived in poverty, so it has a derogatory meaning - seemingly to reflect the poor regard the richer community held the weavers.  Hey it’s the 19th century!
It traditionally used a farmhouse-style cheese like fromage blanc, but these ingredients are more readily available.
The whole birthday party asked for this recipe that night when I served it – here it is!
Pictured: La cervelle de canut – French goat’s curd ricotta and herb dip

450g ricotta
375g goat’s curd or a mix with soft goat’s cheese
1 tbsp mild extra virgin olive oil
1 small shallot or 4 spring onions, very finely chopped
2 tbsp chervil, finely chopped
2 tbsp chives, finely chopped
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp white wine vinegar, or tarragon vinegar if you have it

Place all ingredients in a bowl, season to taste with some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, stir until well combined.

Makes 850g, a large tub – serves 8 – 10