How to make Jansson’s Frestelse

Christmas is less than 10 weeks away.

We’re in Christmas prep mode in our house. (Yeah, no. Mainly me. I am in prep mode. Kids and husband are blissfully unaware)

I’ve bought most of the presents, planned the advent calendar, what decorations to make and use, drinks and food menus and the colour scheme on the tree. 

With age I’ve come to realise that I may just be a teeny tiny bit OCD when it comes to Christmas and especially when it comes to decorating the tree… 

But I digress. 

So you may have noticed that I like food. 

I like discussing food, watching programmes of people like Nigella and Gordon making it, looking at pictures of food, food competition programmes, cooking myself but also eating it. 

For me, food plays a major role in making Christmas magical. 

And for a Swede living in the UK, Swedish Christmas food become extra important. It’s nostalgia, cosy, familiar… it’s Yule. 

I order my Swedish Christmas food from Totally Swedish and the Swedish Shop on Ocado online every year. 

There has to be a Christmas Ham, Julmust (a special soft drink), meatballs, prinskorv (mini sausages), my Swedish Sticky Ribs and Jansson.

Heck. I’d even go so far as to say I’d try making ”Dopp i grytan”, just to feel extra Christmassy. 

(Even though, like Lena in Svensson, Svensson I know that no one would eat from the pot anyway) 

For those of you who haven’t tried it Janssson’s Frestelse is a traditional Swedish Potato Gratin dish. But tastier.

Since I want to avoid any disasters on the actual day, I trial the food in the weeks leading up to on Christmas Eve and Day. (The Swedes celebrate on the 24th – more on that in another post!).

This week I’ve made Janssson’s Frestelse and I’d like to share my recipe with you. 

Janssson’s frestelse is traditionally made of potatoes, onions, *pickled sprats, bread crumbs and cream. 

For my version, I’ve added some shallots as I think it really complements the dish.

You will need: 

  • 1 1/2 kg potatoes – the waxy kind (Maris Piper or King Edward)
  • 2 big yellow onions and 1 shallot onion
  • Proper butter (for frying and to dollop on top of gratin before cooking)”
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 tin sprats (à 100 g)
  • 4 dl double cream
  • 2 dl milk
  • Plenty of breadcrumbs to cover the dish (about 2 tbls)
  • Sugar (for caramelising the onions) 
  • Deep oven dish, smothered in butter
  • Pot to boil your double cream and milk 
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 160˚C. (fan assisted) 

Peel the onions, shallots and potatoes. Slice the onion thinly, chop the shallots very fine and fry them in the butter. Add the sugar to caramelise. Add a pinch of cinnamon.

Cut the potatoes into thin strips

Potato on a board
Sliced potato

Take out your sprats and lay them to one side. Take the juices and put into a bowl. You will mix in the sprat juices with the milk and cream later on. 

Now layer your onions, potatoes and sprat fillets in a deep dish – sort of like you would a lasagne. 

Start and end with a layer of potato. 

Milk and cream summering

Heat your milk and double creme on a gentle heat on your stove. Let it simmer for a minute then take away from the heat. Mix in the sprat juices. 

Pour the liquid over your potato and onion dish. Add the breadcrumbs over the top and add small knobs of butter on top. The butter will bring some extra crunch and tastiness to the dish. 

Bake in the lower part of your oven for about an 1 hour, 1 1/2. 

Janssons Frestelse

The potatoes should be soft, the milky cream should be reduced and the top a lovely light brow colour.

(If you find that your dish is getting too dark then put some foil on top to stop it from burning.)

Sprats

*if you’re not a fish fan, then you can leave this item out, but as the sprats and its juices gives the dish its saltiness you’d have to balance the dish well when seasoning 

Enjoy!

First Birthday Milestone

He’s one. One. A whole year has passed since he join us. 

How is that even possible? He was only a newborn yesterday! 

I remember lying on that hospital bed and they placed the most perfect little boy on my chest. He had black hair and huge, beautiful blue eyes. 

We were both pretty exhausted after a long labour and so we just lay there, so happy and content.

We had achieved a VBAC2 and although elated, pretty shellshocked. 

Alfie’s such a delightful little person and nothing makes him happier than hanging out with his older siblings. Or Buddy the dog. He loves them no end. 

He loves to explore and is such a confident little boy. 

He’s extremely sociable and loves to be around people – especially kids. 

He’s adventurous, and will try and climb any kind of stair, ladder, stool – you name it, he’ll try and conquer it. 

But he’s also extremely affectionate and will give you the best snuggles imaginable. 

The moment he joined our family I became a mother of three. Everything changed from then on. The way we live, travel, eat. I’ve changed. 

But all to the better mind.  I’m more confident and self assured. In a kind of “I’ve got this – bring it on” way. 

It’s reassuring to know and trust what I’m doing. In the same breath, also having the confidence to ask for help and advice when needed. 

It’s going to be hard being the youngest but he has the bests of prospects with such caring and loving siblings. 

Jackson and Maggie were up at 5.30am this morning. They had tidied the front room and decorated the room with birthday presents and balloons. Such super stars. They will always have your back.

So, happy birthday little man. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you. 

It takes a Village

This is a still from a film Brooks worked on recently called Cold Hands.

It’s written and directed by Mac Carr, shot in beautiful Falmouth, Cornwall. 

Brooks’ portrayal in the film really is stunning, and I hope you get a chance to see it. I’m a little biased, of course, but it really is a fantastic film. 

Being cast in films and TV projects means that sometimes he has to be away filming for lengths of time – either in the UK or abroad.

His jobs are often fun, sometimes crazy and intense, at times weird and unexpected. 

He can tell you all about that time he arrived in the Ukraine on a grey winter’s day to film an advert and he was picked up at the airport by a proper James Bond caricature villain. 

This man was huge. A good 2 meters and 2m wide. (Okay. No. But he was huge) 

He was standing in the arrivals foyer with a note that said Brooks in large letters. Brooks walked up to him and said cheerfully that he was Brooks. The man didn’t respond, but rather looked at him in complete silence. Then he simply gestured for Brooks to start walking. 

The James Bond villain walked him, in silence, to the car park where he gestured for Brooks to get in the back of a huge black Mercedes (- villain). 

There was a bullet proofed window between him and the driver (- villain) and the man drove him, in silence, all the way to the centre of the town to a manicure salon (er… – villain?) and then later the hotel.  (- villain).  Again, all in silence. 

Brooks rang me so many times that night. To make sure the kids and I were okay of course. 

Although we’re obviously overjoyed when he gets a job, because it’s his passion in life and he works so hard, it’s tough when he goes away, not only from a logistical point of view. 

Anyone with kids will tell you that it’s not an easy feat to look after kids on your own and three of them? 

Well, let me tell you – it’s a completely different ball game altogether. 

It’s the Big League people. 

This house runs a military camp. 

Everything is ready and set out the night before. 

The kids know the drill. When daddy is away, they must help mummy more at home.  When daddy is away, mummy turns into a drill sergeant. 

The food for the week is prepped and ready. The school bags are ready for school, their water bottles, packed lunches done, books, after school and club stuff sorted, tennis lessons, guitar and piano lessons, Taekwondo, football and swimming and Lord knows what else – all of it has to be ready and organised.  Mine and the kids’ clothes are ready and laid out ready for the week. We arrange play dates, we head to the library and go to the park after school.

Sounds fun yes, but it’s exhausting. 

If you’re on your own you don’t really get a break either. My kids have never been great sleepers and so they tend to be up a few times every night. 

I also sometimes get a bit scared. It’s a big house and I’m forever grateful for my dog’s presence – just in case. 

Gorgeous Friends

It also reminds me how lucky I am to have the best of friends.  My friends will offer to give the kids a ride to and back from school, have them over for play dates – you name it. 

Especially if you’re an immigrant like myself and my family are miles and miles away. My in laws are incredibly supportive as well, and will always help when Brooks is away. 

There’s a saying isn’t there. It takes a village and never was a truer word spoken. 

Separation Anxiety and Why We Need More Coffee

img_1649
I can see the light…

I can still hear him. It’s almost inaudible, but there.  He’s softly humming to himself. 

I hold my breath. I can feel sweat running down my brow. I exhale slowly and try ignore it. 

I extend my foot. Very slowly I set the foot down on the floor. 

A floorboard creaks loudly and I freeze to the spot.

The humming has stopped. 

He is listening. 

I shift my weight somewhat and press my body next to the wall. If I can just move out of the room fast enough he won’t detect me. 

I take another step and there’s no sound. I exhale slowly.  I can see the light coming from the other room. Two more steps and I’ll be out of here. 

I take another step and suddenly my knees croak. It sounds like someone just broke off a branch off an old Oak tree.  Thank you Age. 

Suddenly I see a dummy flung across the room. This is not a good sign. I peek around the corner.

Night lamp

He is definitely awake. He is listening and he is NOT happy. 

I know what must be done. I don’t like it as the risk of getting spotted are extremely high. I lie down flat on the floor and army crawl over to the dummy. With the dummy safely in my hand, I crawl over to the cot and deposit the dummy inside the cot.  I look up tentatively. He’s taken the bait. 

It seems he has settled back. There is hope yet.  For now. 

I stay lying down for what seems like hours. I can’t hear a thing apart from my own heartbeat.  

I crawl back to the door and slowly get up to my knees first, then to standing. 

I decide to risk it and take another step. I’m so close, I’m in the light, I’m standing at the opening. 

The new episode of Bodyguard is lined up and ready on catch up downstairs. 

That’s when it starts. First, a kind of anxious and low key sound that progressively moves into full blown screaming… 

The baby is up and the baby wants Mama. 

Recognise the scenario? 

Separation anxiety in children is a BEAST. They never tell you that in your NCT classes do they?

SLEEP THIEF

My youngest is 11 months and have for the past month or so been going through a tough phase of separation anxiety. No one but Mum will do.

I can leave him for a few minutes with someone else, but after a while he will look around for Mum and cry. Nighttime is a real killer.

I know it’s anxiety, rather than say hunger or thirst, as he will stop crying as soon as I pick him up or soothe him.

So what do you do? You ride it out. 

There’s nothing for it. Cuddle baby, soothe and comfort baby. Soon she/he will understand that Mum (or Dad) has to go away for a little while but they always come back.  

I know the books that say “let baby cry out” and all that. If that’s how you want to approach it then by no means do so. No judgement.  But it’s not for me. I’ve found with all my kids that patience and perseverance do the trick. 

It doesn’t mean it’s an easy ride though. My brain feel like porridge. I’m tired and short tempered. I feel about 200 years old. My god, I’m so, so tired. 

How long can you actually function on zero sleep but huge quantities of tea and coffee? Has there been a study on this? If not, there should be. 

But the truth is – these days fly by so fast. Blink your eyes and they’ll be teenagers begging you to stay out of their room. 

Babies be like.

My oldest is 9 and he doesn’t need me in the same way anymore. Although I welcome the maturity and independence in him, I do also miss hearing those little feet tiptoeing into our room and snuggling up to us in bed. 

So for now, I’ll have to keep my Ninja moves nimble and ready for action and up my coffee consumption. 

Richard Madden will have to wait.

Poland comes to the rescue

This summer, due to soaring temperatures (hello global warming!) Sweden was suffering from an epidemic of wild fires and our Swedish firefighters were struggling to cope.  

In a show of solidarity lots of EU countries sent help. Norway, Denmark, Germany to name a few.  Poland sent the biggest fleet of 140 firefighters.  

And guess what? We saw them! Driving to my parents house from Arlanda airport in Sweden this August, we passed a long convoy of Polish fire engines. It was extraordinary. 

Along our route, we saw hoards of people standing on bridges with big posters saying thank you and waving. These fire engines were on their way home after spending weeks fighting fires in Sweden. 

Truly inspiring. And how beautiful to see European countries coming together in solidarity. 

That time I kissed a Moose and a travel review.

Moose

Moose. The symbol of Sweden.

They are Majestic. Regal.

Moose are absolutely huge. It’s extremely humbling when you happen to see one up close and personal. Moose weigh up to about 700 Kg and they’re about 2 meters tall. They are MASSIVE.

They truly are the Kings of the Scandinavian Woods. (And North America!)

Growing up in the Swedish countryside, surrounded by woods, I’ve always had respect for these gentle giants. You did not want to meet one at night driving your car. The impact is the same as hitting a train at full speed.

Once when I was about 17, I was in the kitchen making a cup of tea when I suddenly got that horrible feeling… My hair at the back of my neck stood up and my blood froze.

I had that feeling like someone was watching me. I turned to the window and there it was. A huge dark shadow, staring right at me.

It was early autumn and it had already started getting darker in the evenings so initially I couldn’t really make out what the shadow was. Trust me when I say that I was PETRIFIED.

However, I soon realised it was a huge Moose cow. And she was in our garden. Eating our apples.

Having Moose appear in your garden does happen on occasion so I wasn’t too bothered by that.

But something was odd… She was acting erratically.

Eating the apples but sort of dropping them and slobbering all over place. She couldn’t walk straight.

She looked… drunk.

Moose

We called the farmer next door and he informed us that yes – she was indeed drunk. She had eaten all the over ripe apple off our trees and she was wasted.

We had no choice but to wait her out. She ate some more apples and eventually wobbled back to whence she came. I thought of offering her a strong cup of coffee, *jordgubbssaft and a couple of paracetamol to help with the hangover but decided against it.

I promise you. You’ve not lived until you’ve seen a drunk Moose.

Moose are really abundant in that part of Sweden so there are lots of Moose road signs around. Growing up, the word was that the German tourists used to steal the “Beware, Moose!” signs of the road. I’m not sure if there’s any truth in this but they sure do love a Moose Safari.

And who can blame them?!

I was delightfully surprised by how much I enjoyed this outing to Virum Älgsafari.

Virum Moose Safari

We arrived early and I’m very happy that we did because we didn’t have to queue for the ride.

We jumped in one of the carriages, ready to meet the Moose.

The Rangers talked through the safety rules and explained not to get out of the carriage, stay seated and calm.

The Moose were all out in the paddock and they moved up to greet the tractor. They were absolutely huge up close. We’d all been given vegetables and greens to give the Moose.

The Rangers said that the Moose will give you a kiss if you lean out with a treat. There was no way in hell I was going to do this. But then when my 6 year nephew did it without hesitation I couldn’t really NOT try.

So that’s how it happened.

I kissed a Moose and I liked it.

I received a slobbery kiss from Albin the Moose and I can confirm that it was pleasant and not at all scary.

Our kids loved the ride and the whole outing in general. We had lunch near the playground and seeing the massive queues waiting for the next Safari I was really glad we’d been on the first ride.

There’s a cafe and a shop onsite too that sell the normal tourist paraphernalia. And a lot of Moose road signs – presumably for the German tourists.

Livermore’s Top Tips:

  1. Arrive early. Make sure you get on the first ride of the day. You can’t pre-book and the Safari gets really busy.
  1. Bring hand gel
  1. Bring a packed lunch. The cafe is lovely, but as with most things in Sweden, a bit pricey
  1. There’s only one customer toilet by the cafe and shop and so the queue was very long. There are toilets outside by the first barn on your left as your enter the Moose Park.
  2. Try the Zip Wire.

* Yes. It does work. (I swear by this hangover cure.)

How to make a Swedish Sandwich Cake

Any Swedish birthday party, christening or work do would not be the same without a luscious tasty smörgåstårta – the much loved sandwich cake.

Layers of bread with gorgeous filling in between each layer. Finished off with a savoury icing and decorations on top. (Yes. You can probably tell I like smörgåstårta.)

My husband and I met at Uni. We had not been going out for long and it was his birthday coming up. I wanted to surprise him and make him something really special for his birthday. Awesome girlfriend points and all that.

He came over to my house and I sang happy birthday and presented him with the cake. He looked confused:

“- Aw thank you… You’ve made me a… Er… Mega club sandwich?

⁃ No! Well, I guess it might look like a club sandwich to you… It’s a sandwich cake. A Swedish specialty.

⁃ Ah…. You said you made me a birthday cake?

⁃ Yes. This. Is. A. Cake. Ta da!

⁃ But… cakes are sweet. This is savoury? It’s a sandwich –

⁃ …Cake! See?”

He tried the cake, he loved it and married me.

I realise that the sound of a savoury cake might seem a bit strange. You know, a bit like Peter Kay and the Garlic Bread… (If you’ve not seen the clip I’m referring to then look it up – it’s hilarious!)

For my Swedish friends, however, smörgåstårta is as normal and traditional as meatballs and lingonsylt, IKEA and rain on Midsummer Night’s eve.

I’ve made a few of these through the years and they’re always very popular. For birthdays, school graduations and for our children’s christenings.

There are hundreds of recipes out there. You can use so many different fillings – tuna, bacon, ham, pate, egg, prawns and salmon – whatever takes your fancy.

My absolute favourite is the tuna mayo and prawn variety. I have a recipe I’ve used over the years. I’ve adapted it somewhat to suit my British family’s palates and I thought I’d share it with you here:

Jessica’s Swedish Sandwich Cake

(This cake will feed about 15 – 20 people)

A big tray covered with foil

Spatula

Chopping board

3 mixing bowls

Ingredients:

2 loaves of white (toast) bread (about 45 pieces). This depends on the size of the tray of course.

Filling 1, Tuna:

3 cans of tuna in water

2 dl mayonnaise

3 dl cremefraiche

1 tbl Dijon mustard

1/2 lemon juice

Dill, finely chopped

Salt & pepper to taste

Filling 2, Prawn:

300g peeled prawns

1/2 lemon juice

1 dl dill, finely chopped

2 dl mayonnaise

2 dl creme fraiche

For the “icing”

2 dl whipping cream

3 dl creme fraiche

0.5 dl mayonnaise

1 dl dill, finely chopped

1/2 lemon juice

For decorating the cake:

Hard-boil and peel 5 eggs then finely chop

Prawns (about 300 gr)

Cucumbers, very thinly sliced

Cherry tomatoes

Lemon slices, cut into triangles

Dill

Red or Black roe (optional)

Method:

Keep your fillings in two separate bowls. Drain the water from the tuna. Mix all the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.

Do the same with your second mixture.

Put the fillings the fridge while you start on your “icing”.

Whip up your cream to just about the soft peak stage.

Fold in the creme fraiche and mix gently. Fold in the mayonnaise, dill and lemon juice and mix gently.

Leave in fridge to cool.

Get your bread ready by cutting off all the hard edges.

Lay the bread down to make an even first layer – 9 in total.

Get your fillings from the fridge.

Gently add some of the tuna filling to the first layer. Leave a little space at the edges or the filling will spill out at the sides.

Add a second layer of 9 bread slices on top of your tuna filling.

Now add your prawn filling and then repeat the process twice. (1 more layer of tuna, 1 more prawn)

You will end up with 2 layers of each filling in total.

Add a final layer of bread.

Get your icing out of the fridge and completely cover your cake with the icing. Use a spatula as it always end up a bit messy.

Once you’re done then wrap the cap carefully with clingfilm and leave in the fridge.

This cake will taste better if made ahead of your party, preferably the night before.

Party Time! Now comes the fun part – decorating the cake.

Add the chopped up egg to all sides of your cake and on top. Make a pretty patter using the prawns, tomatoes, dill and fishroe.

Add the thinly sliced cucumber to all sides of the cake.

Cut the lemon into tiny quarters and add to the top of the cake.

Enjoy!