During"lockdown", we've followed the trends - tidying, preserving, bread...
Left: a superb sour dough loaf made by a friend who has seriously taken it to heart. His results are perfection. What a crackle to that crust! He wants me to adopt a "starter". Not sure if this means I'll have to set the alarm to get up at four hourly intervals to feed it. Cats are bad enough.
Left: Cutting Roger Haden's bread with the old Danish bread cutter.
Left: Dealing with an overwhelming daily avalanche of guavas - guava jelly.
Right: Painstaking work for pomegranate syrup, made by friends Pauline & Jen. Could only happen in "lockdown". What bliss.
Basically I've been fine; in fact I've loved the calm. I've handled with poise the on-line and newspaper overload of recipes, overload of books to read, films to watch, nostalgia, "confected outrage" and attempts to make me feel I'm not as scared, worried or depressed as I should be.
I'm fine - but after nine weeks, there was an underlying restlessness. Perhaps it's little wonder that I was in the right haywire-frame of mind to be tempted by a totally whacky recipe I found during my constant reading and "research" .
Consider Flygande Jakob (or Flying Jacob, in English), a warming Swedish casserole of chicken, cream and banana.
When you consider Sweden, what comes to mind? Clean, natural landscapes, glaciers, sensible cars, equality, democracy, happiness, the wholesome voices of ABBA, sleek, modern furniture, a sensible royal family, Ikea, - and an unconventional approach to social distancing.
With my inner-Scandi ruffled, I needed to verify the claim that the dish actually existed. I consulted The Nordic Cook Book, a massive, meticulously researched work by Magnus Nilsson, a long-haired young Viking*. And there it was.
"Few dishes are as emblemetic and unique to the contemporary food culture of Sweden than this."
In 1976, pilot Ove Jacobsen, arrived home and remembered he was due at a "pot-luck" dinner. He threw together what he had on hand. It was a huge success and the recipe was printed in the Swedish magazine, All om Mat (All about Food). The meat of a roast chicken was pulled apart and seasoned with commercial Italian dressing. Bananas were sliced and arranged, cream whipped and enhanced by a generous slurp of Heinz tomato and chilli ketchup. Once baked the casserole was topped with crisp bacon pieces and roasted peanuts. The rest as they say, is history.
Reader, I made it. Surprisingly, it was delicious and perfect for that stormy evening - very **"hygge". Furthermore, we decided to serve it to the first friends invited when "lockdown" eased.
I went to our butcher. It's a real butcher shop, no white polystyrene trays, two enthusiastic young guys who will cut to order and even get you stuff, like brains and sweetbreads. I could even call it a "boutique" butcher's shop. We like a chat. I explained I was trying out an unusual dish, chicken with banana.
Danny looked grim. "Not that Jacob thing?"
I was horrified. "How on earth do you know about Flying Jacob?" Had I been pipped at the post by Vogue Living or by Gourmet? I thought I was to be the one to introduce this wonderful curiosity to Australian foodie taste-buds.
"Geez - about twelve years ago I met this girl in Cooper Pedy whose parents were Swedish. It was bloody awful."
Reader, he married her. I told him he should allow her to make it again, perhaps using my "elevated" recipe below. (I have exchanged peanuts for almonds, for example, and if not using bacon, try crispy shallots.)
Incidentally, my friends loved it.
I must warn that it defies a wine match.
Flying Jacob (or Flygande Jakob, pronounced Flew-gan-der Yacob)
For 4, (perhaps with rice and a green been or salad)
480 gm chicken thigh fillet
1 tbsp chopped herbs (oregano, parsley, thyme)
2 spring onions, finely chopped, white part and half of the green
2 bananas, "ready to eat" ripeness
100ml tomato passata or 60 ml concentrated tomato purée
1/4 tsp dry chilli flakes (to taste) or 1 tsp smoked paprika
150 gm bacon
1/2 cup flaked almonds
Seasoning to taste.
If you don't wish to eat meat, this also works well with a mix of root vegetables cut into chunks and pre-roasted (carrots, turnips, sweet potato, beetroot) in place of the chicken. (Allow 150gm all up per person.) Top with crisp, cooked shallots & almonds.
I haven't tried with fish. Let me know. Snapper could be good (it needs big flakes) but salmon might be too rich.
STOP PRESS - I have just been reminded of Whiting Caprice, (crumbed whiting with banana, circa 1965). It was served to President Lyndon Baines Johnson at an official dinner in Canberra in October 1966.
Fillet of Whiting Caprice with tartare sauce
White Burgundy - Lindeman's Private Bin 77
*Magnus Nilsson is no slouch. His restaurant Fäviken had two Michelin stars and was listed at 67 in the Pellegrini 100 world's best restaurants. Closed in 2017 after 12 years, it was open 30 weeks a year, seated 24, and was situated in the deep interior of Sweden. (Lots of foraging!)
**Hygge-(Hoo-ger) - a Swedish concept of comfort, cosiness and candles in winter.
Let me know your feelings/experiences with Flying Jacob.
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