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Recipe: A Scandinavian sprat-filled supper – Jansson’s Temptation (Janssons frestelse)

Time for a tiny bit of a Scandinavian culinary odyssey! This is a recipe for a Swedish staple for smörgåsbords (and no, that’s not the name of a table in IKEA’s latest range)! Jansson’s Temptation – or Janssons frestelse in Swedish, supposedly named after a Swedish opera singer from the 1900 – is a firm family favourite in a number of Swedish households, and is a simple dish that the whole family can get involved in making. This has made it very common with big celebrations and get-togethers, such as Kräftskiva (the August-time celebration of crayfish – very fun!) and other celebrations like Christmas (julbord) and Easter (påskbuffé).

To make this recipe authentic, I would recommend using ABBA’s Grebbestad Ansjovis – and no, *that* band didn’t branch out into tinned fish production at the end of their musical careers. This ABBA is a separate Swedish company that sell a whole range of different marinated herrings and fish. (Fun fact: ABBA, the band, initially had to ask the fish company to use their name in the first place – before they did, they were simply known as Agnetha, Annifrid, Benny, and Björn.)

Ansjovis may have a name oddly reminiscent of anchovies (the small fish), but they’re actually small sprats, or baby herring, which have a much milder taste than a traditional anchovy. If you can’t get hold of these, then other options are available, although I would advise against using English anchovies just because of how overpowering the taste could be. The appeal of the Swedish sprat is that it’s so subtle when combined with other elements of the dish that it can’t be tasted outright, which means that even the fussiest of fish critics can enjoy this supper. 

Ingredients

for 6-8 servings (can be adapted to suit requirements)

  • 1.2kg potatoes – King Edward is recommended
  • 400g onions
  • 375g spice-cured sprat fillets 
  • 600ml heavy whipping cream
  • a pinch of salt
  • a pinch of black pepper
  • breadcrumbs (as much as desired)
  • butter (about 20g should do, although this can vary)

Preparation

  1. To save time later, preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F), or Gas Mark 6.
  2. Prepare the ingredients. 
    1. Peel the potatoes, and slice into fine strips that are roughly half a centimetre in size – you want them to look similar to French fries, albeit shorter in length. 
    2. Peel and chop the onions into thin slices. Sautee these gently in a small amount of butter, but make sure they don’t brown. 
  3. Place the potato strips into an oven-proof baking dish and pre-cook them in the oven for 20 minutes.
  4. Once they’ve finished pre-cooking, grease another oven-proof baking dish and cover the bottom with a layer of the potatoes. 
  5. After this, then add a layer of onions and half of the anchovy/sprat fillets. 
  6. Add a little salt and pepper, and also start adding part of the whipping cream.
  7. Add another layer of the potatoes, then the rest of the sprats. Repeat until you’ve filled the dish or run out of ingredients. 
  8. Once you’ve finished with the ingredients, add a final pour of the cream all over and the last of the anchovy brine for flavouring. Flatten the top a little, and add a covering of breadcrumbs – this is an optional topping, however.
  9. Bake for around 45 minutes to an hour in the oven, or until the potatoes are cooked and the top is nice and crispy. If you think that it looks a little dry, don’t be afraid to add a little milk or butter to the top of the dish, as the sauce should ideally have a creamy texture. 

And there you have it! A classic dish for your very own Swedish feast.