I Don’t Know Who Jansson Was, But This Sure Is Tempting

Jansson's Frestelse

Jansson’s Frestelse

The weather is changeable again, and is blowing hot and cold. You can expect to see a much more eclectic mix on the blog of salads and more autumnal fare, while we wait for the season to make its mind up.

It has also shown me that the lighting in my living room lends my photographs an odd yellow tinge, now that it is getting darker earlier. Until I can be organised enough to make all my food in the day, I am going to have to try not to take photos in here.

Yesterday was a cooler day, and thoughts turned to comfort food for other reasons too. I have been thinking pretty hard about potatoes and cream. This means one thing, a traditional Swedish dish, called Jansson’s Frestelse, or Jansson’s Temptation. This is a lovely gratin of potato and cream, with the surprising, but brilliant addition of a little anchovy.

Swedes actually call a sweet preserved sprat ‘ansjovis’, so the Temptation will be slightly different. I haven’t found them outside of Sweden, so I use ordinary common or garden anchovy, preserved in oil.  And actually, the salty little things add a really unctuous quality, I think they are worth it.

You can make the gratin vegetarian by omitting the anchovy, but only do this for the vegetarians in your life. If you are one of these people who insist thy don’t like anchovy, and will remove them from pizza, I promise you will not notice them, as they will melt into the dish, but they add so much in the way of flavour.

I road tested this once, at one of the International dinners. I made two versions of the dish, one with anchovies and one without. The one with went quickly; we were eating the one without for the next few days.

I served it with some garden beans, and a lamb chop that had been rubbed with  Ras el Hanout, and pan fried to medium rare. It was an amazing meal, for little effort.

This is a very simple dish, and so good in colder weather. It is also an amazing alternative to mash. Give it a try.

Recipe: Jansson’s Frestelse (Temptation)


800 g waxy potatoes

1 onion

150 ml cream

150 ml milk

8-10 anchovy fillets

1/2 tbsp anchovy oil

Salt and pepper

Some breadcrumbs for scattering (optional)


Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Cut the potato into thin matchsticks. It is easiest to use a mandoline, or you can get an attachment for some food processors. If you have neither, cut the matchsticks with a knife. This will give a larger surface area, and produce brilliant crunchy and soft textures, which improves the dish, so do take the time, even though it is a pain. This should be the spur for you to buy a mandoline. They aren’t all that expensive, and this is the second recipe in a week in which I’ve used one. As long as you keep your fingers clear, they are great, and this is coming from the woman who hates gadgets!

Slice the onion into thin half moons, and chop up the anchovy fillets.

Butter an oven proof dish, or roasting tin. Then you need to layer the dish. Start with a thin layer of onion, and season with salt and pepper. Next add a thick layer of potato, then a little anchovy. Continue to layer up in this order, but make sure that you finish with a layer of potato. Give it one last season with some salt and pepper.

Mix the cream, milk and anchovy oil in a jug. Pour half over the potato in the baking dish, and sprinkle over the breadcrumbs, if you are using some. They should be scant, they don’t need to cover the dish.

Put it in the oven for half an hour, then add the rest of the cream and  oil. Cook for a further 15 minutes, until the top is crunchy, and the potatoes are cooked through.

This is great the first day, and amazing reheated for leftovers. If you have enough left to reheat, you might want to cover it with some foil as it heats up, so that the lovely crust doesn’t burn.



Filed under Feast

2 responses to “I Don’t Know Who Jansson Was, But This Sure Is Tempting

  1. I love this, one of the few potato dishes my cooking phobic Danish mother brought with her to England (she was brought up in Sweden, complicated story) – but have never matchsticked the potatoes, but sliced – this would presumably make it quicker to cook, more prep time, less cook time? This and rosti pancakes are the two best potato dishes from my childhood. I threw out my mandoline too many close shaves and near knuckle experiences. I am safer with a sharp knife, but I do now have a Kenwood with attachments so maybe I will experiment

    • How wonderful that this is in your cooking heritage, my mother has a lot of lovely potato dishes, but, you can never have too many, I think.
      I have never had it sliced, but I think you are right, it will have a shorter cooking time. I have a mandoline, and once you are used to using it, it is actually very quick to use, so I don’t have extended prep time either. It will take ages if you do it by hand.
      The one thing that I really love about the matchsticks is the larger surface area on the top really gives the topping a lot of texture and crunch, which you would still get with sliced potatoes, of course, but there would be less of it 🙂

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