Janssons Frestelse (Jansson’s Temptation)
Approx cost: €3.60
Approx calories (per serving): ~ 240 calories
Approx preparation and cooking time: 120 mins
The first time I heard of this I have to say, I was dubious. I’m not one of these people who hates anchovies… I don’t mind them at all but they have a very unique flavour and to be honest, I really want sure if a creamy, luxurious potato gratin was the right place for them . That said – my wife convinced me to give it a try and I was hooked. It’s been a fixture on our Christmas table ever since (of course, I think it would have been a fixture anyway because Christmas without Janssons Frestelse for a Swede is like Christmas without Mince Pies for a Brit! As with many such traditional recipes there exist a great number of personalised versions, variations and alternatives, though at its heart, Janssons Frestelse is a type of potato gratin – creamy and delicious with onion, and most importantly, pickled sprats. Wikipedia says that the ingredients are often mistranslated as “ansjovis” in Swedish actually means pickled sprats, while “sardeller” is actually what we would know as anchovies. Regardless of this, I think the difference between the types of fish is fairly negligible. I’m told by at least two Swedes that the taste is the same with anchovies as the ones they used to eat when they lived back home, so since I’ve never seen pickled sprats for sale anywhere in France, feel free to go ahead and use anchovies.
Breadcrumbs are often added to the top for a wonderful brown topping and the potato is usually cut into matchsticks. Today I’ll be slicing it thinly on a mandoline and won’t be adding breadcrumbs. You’ll have to forgive me for those in advance The taste itself was delicious and is the perfect accompaniment for other Swedish Christmas delicacies – the Swedish Christmas Meatballs, Christmas Ham, Gravlax and so on.
Perhaps you’re wondering about the name though. Well – “frestelse” means “temptation”, so it’s the temptation of Jansson, or “Jansson’s Temptation”. The only problem is, I have absolutely no idea who Jansson is. There are some theories in the Wikipedia page:
It has often been claimed that the name originated with the opera singer Pelle Janzon (1844-1889), remembered as a gourmand. However, another claim for the origin of the name has been made by Gunnar Stigmark in an article – “Så var det med Janssons frestelse” – which appeared in the periodical Gastronomisk kalender. According to Stigmark, the name was borrowed from the film Janssons frestelse (1928) featuring the popular actor Edvin Adolphson; as a name for this dish it was coined by Stigmark’s mother and her hired cooking lady for the particular occasion of a society dinner, whence it spread to other households and eventually into cookbooks.
… though it seems no-one really knows for sure. In any case, I would advise you not to worry your heads too much about exactly who Jansson was, and why he was so tempted by this (well, that’s pretty obvious if you try this I think!). The next time you planning your potato-based dishes for Christmas and thinking that maybe mashed, boiled, roasted are all a bit passé, consider this instead! Have a wonderful day everyone!
- 1kg Potatoes (peeled weight)
- 40g Anchovy Fillets (drained weight) + the liquid they were stored in
- 2 dl Cream
- 2 Onions
- Milk for topping up – ~2 dl
- 30g Butter
- Salt and Pepper
- Start off by pre-heating your oven to 190 degrees Celsius and then peel the onions and potatoes. Slice each one very finely. I used a mandoline for this, and if you don’t have one yet I really recommend it! You’ll need enough potato and onion to almost fill the roasting dish you’re going to use so plan accordingly. My roasting pan was about 30cm x 20cm x 6cm. Drain the fish, setting aside the liquid they were in, and chop them into small pieces.
- Starting with a generous layer of potato, arrange the ingredients in the order of potato, onion, anchovies, before sprinkling on some salt and pepper and then repeating – potato, onion, anchovies – finishing off with a final sprinkling of salt and pepper and then a layer of potato on the top. If your dish is deep enough, you can obviously add another layer of potato, onion and anchovies in the dish.
- Cut the butter into chunks and arrange on the top and then mix the cream with the liquid you drained from the fish. Pour the cream mixture over the top of the potatoes and then bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes has passed, turn the oven down to ~140 degrees Celsius. Pour over the milk – the level of liquid in the dish should then be sitting just below the top of the potato layers. At this point, if you have any, you can then sprinkle some breadcrumbs over the top, and then return to the oven. Bake until the potato is soft – this will take about 1 hour or so, depending on how thickly the potato was cut, and the efficiency of the oven. Serve up when hot, and enjoy!