While cranberries are native to North America, many people don't know that the plant grows wild in some parts of the Netherlands. As the story goes, in 1845 a vat of cranberries was found washed up on the beach of Terschelling, the West-Frisian island, after which the berry was grown there by the hardy islanders. The mystery fruit was officially identified as cranberries by botanist Franciscus Holkema in 1868.
Because cranberries thrive in this 'Wadden island' environment, some 48 ha (119 acres) of cranberry fields can be found on the island today. Cranberries are commonly known as veenbessen in the Netherlands, but on Terschelling some still call them Pieter-Sipkesheide, after the man who found that fateful vat of cranberries.
This dish was featured in the winter section of Gerechten van de Heerlijkheid cookbook, and makes for a fine starter on any Christmas menu. The recipe has been translated and adapted for this site and published here with the permission of the publisher.
- 1 wheel of camembert (about 8 oz/250 g, cut into 8 wedges)
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- Dash salt
- Dash black pepper (to taste)
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- 2 eggs (loosely beaten)
- 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
- Sunflower oil for deep frying
- 1 tsp fresh thyme (finely chopped)
- 1 pot (Mariënwaerdt) cranberry port sauce (or make your own cranberry port sauce)
- Gather the ingredients.
- Take the camembert out of the refrigerator. Season the flour with the salt, pepper and oregano.
- Set out three soup bowls: one with seasoned flour, another with beaten egg, and the third with bread crumbs. Dredge the cheese in the flour, followed by the beaten egg and finally the bread crumbs. Make sure that the wedges are evenly coated.
- Heat sunflower oil to 356 F (180 C) in a deep fat fryer. Set out a plate covered with kitchen paper.
- Fry the cheese (in batches) for 3 to 4 minutes and allow to drain on the kitchen paper. Sprinkle with the finely chopped thyme and serve immediately with a cranberry sauce dip.
This dish can be served as a starter or as an appetizer with a glass of full-bodied red wine.
Deep-fried camembert is also good with rhubarb-mustard chutney.
If you don't have a deep fat fryer, you can use a soup pot or wok to fry the cheese. To check whether the oil is at the right temperature, stand the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil. When little bubbles form around the base, the oil is hot enough.