John's Janssons frestelse potato gratin

Janssons frestelse  is traditionally made with pickled sprats instead of anchovies, which lends a slightly more mild flavour. Photography by Bethan Kapur.

Janssons frestelse is traditionally made with pickled sprats instead of anchovies, which lends a slightly more mild flavour. Photography by Bethan Kapur.

Where does it come from?

Janssons frestelse (Jansson’s temptation) is a traditional Swedish dish dating back to the 19th century. The gloriously hearty gratin has a well-contested backstory; some claim it was named after a famous opera singer and gourmand of the early 1900s named Pelle Janzon, while others attribute it to an old Swedish film Janssons frestelse (1928). Whichever theory is correct, the result is undeniably delicious.

Due to its creamy and comforting nature, the dish is most often made in the winter and holds pride of place on the Christmas and Easter table. It can be found in its variations across the whole of Scandinavia, including Norway where author John McGhie would tuck into his mother’s recipe as a child.

Ingredients (serves 4)

Four large red-skinned potatoes (firm flesh but not as firm as new potatoes), peeled and finely sliced

I large onion, finely sliced

I jar anchovies, roughly chopped

Small bunch of dill, finely chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

500ml single cream

Vegetable stock

How do you make it?

  1. Grease an oven proof baking or casserole dish liberally with butter, and cover the bottom with a layer of the potato, then onion, then anchovy, sprinkle with dill and ground black pepper.

  2. Repeat the layering all the way up to the top of the dish until it’s full or you run out of potato.

  3. Finish with a layer of potato and dot liberally with butter.

  4. Make up about 200 ml of vegetable stock and mix with the single cream.

  5. Carefully pour the cream-stock mixture into the casserole dish, using the gaps between the potatoes and the side until it comes up to just beneath the top layer of potato.

  6. Bake slowly in a medium oven for about an hour and a half until the top is golden and starting to brown.

John with the finished dish, just out of the oven. Photography by Bethan Kapur.

John with the finished dish, just out of the oven. Photography by Bethan Kapur.