• Flying Jacob (recipe) (Tammi Kwok)Source: Tammi Kwok
Flygande Jakob is a famous creamy chicken casserole - made with curry powder, sweet chilli sauce, banana, peanuts and bacon - that encapsulates Swedish cuisine in a way your tastebuds have never before experienced.
By
Yasmin Noone

6 Mar 2020 - 1:15 PM  UPDATED 6 Mar 2020 - 1:16 PM

----- Get the recipe here -----

 

Move over meatballs with lingonberry jam. Step aside marinated salmon with dill potatoes. There’s an intriguing retro Swedish dish that’s now demanding a spotlight in Australia’s home kitchens.

Flygande Jakob (or flying Jacob in English) is a famed national casserole – a hodgepodge of chicken, rice, whipped cream, curry powder, sweet chilli sauce, banana, peanuts and bacon – that encapsulates Swedish cuisine in a way you’ve probably never experienced before.

“The dish very much represents Swedish home cooking and comfort food,” says Linda Stanes, a Sydney restauranteur who first came to Australia from Sweden in 2007. “It probably sits somewhere within the top 10 dishes of Sweden, if not in the top five. Flying Jacob is just one of those unique dishes that give you so many weird flavours but it just works.”

When you put it that way, flying Jacob’s banana-chicken flavours sound naturally complementary, in the same way, that sweet fruit goes with chicken to make the retro classic apricot chicken or orange is paired with duck in French cuisine. And yet, to the uninitiated in Australia, Sweden's flying Jacob casserole seems to somehow sound unusual. 

“To a foreigner, it is a strange dish but to a Swede, it is so normal,” Stanes tells SBS. “It wasn’t until I came to Australia and I spoke to people about the dish that I realised how strange it sounds. But it's also really fun.”

Made popular throughout Sweden in the 1980s, flying Jacob is said to have been created in 1976 when an air-freight worker named Ove Jacobsson hosted a dinner party for a group of friends that included a famous food editor of the time. Not knowing what to cook, Jacobsson threw whatever ingredients he could find into a dish and baked it in the oven. The result was the meal now known as Flygande Jakob, made famous when Jacobsson’s food editor mate published the recipe. The dish soon became a sweet-salty-crunchy fixture in most Swedish households and remains a gastronomic icon today.

“When I taste it today, it feels like all my childhood memories have been rolled into one dish.”

“We used to always make it birthday parties and it was one of my absolute favourites when I was a child,” she says. “We would always put a big serving tray of flying Jacob it in the middle of a table with a couple of big-serving spoons and everyone would just go nuts eating it.

“When I taste it today, it feels like all my childhood memories have been rolled into one dish.”

Flying Jacob was also one of the very first meals that Stanes learned to make as a child, under the tutelage of her mother and father. “It’s a very kid-friendly meal. I mean who doesn't like chicken and a creamy sauce with crispy bacon, peanuts and banana?”

How to make and eat Flying Jacob

In Sweden, flying Jacob is traditionally eaten in autumn and winter due to its rich creamy state. But in Australia, it can be consumed at any time of the year, especially if you’re not following seasonal rules of eating.

According to Stanes, it’s also a really easy meal to make: just mix shredded pre-cooked chicken with boiled rice at the bottom of a casserole dish. Add pouring cream that’s been whipped to tomato puree, curry powder and sweet chilli sauce. Pour the cream sauce over the chicken and rice. Then top off the dish with sliced banana, crunchy bacon and peanuts. Bake the dish until it resembles a gratin.

“The taste is really crazy good,” she says. “The chicken in the cream sauce goes really well with the rice. You get a crunch from the peanuts and a hit of sweetness from the bananas. If you have one mouthful containing all of the ingredients together, you’ll experience a flavour explosion.”

Stanes highlights that creamy dish also has a major health benefit. It’s so rich in flavour that it makes you feel like eating salad.

“It’s hard to get kids to eat salad, but ever since I was a child, whenever I would eat this dish, I would crave a salad on the side. I still do to this day.”

Although the dish is a home-cooked staple, if luck is on your side you may be able to find it on select Swedish restaurant menus across Australia.

Stanes, who co-owns Sydney’s Fika Swedish Kitchen, explains that although it’s not a regular menu item, it has been a Fika lunch special that is always served with a dash of encouragement for diners to give it a go.

“Once diners have a little bit of explanation about flying Jacob, they get used to the concept very quickly. Australians who taste flying Jacob just love it.

“So if you ever see it on a menu, be open-minded and just go for it. Order it. I guarantee that you’ll love it.”

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