I’d only been in Sweden as an au-pair for a couple of days when I first had Pytt i Panna for supper. Feeling a little lonely I was sitting in the kitchen that was part of the house that was to be my home for the next six months, still a little nervous and finding my way around both my new life and my new family. The room was bright and modern with simple furnishing and the largest fridges I had ever seen in my life, almost walk in size that took up the whole of the back wall. There seemed to be no need for any other cupboards as everything, literally everything, went into the fridge or the equally humungous freezer. Sweden has a slew of recipes for using up the sunday roast, the remainder of which is kept in the cavernous fridges to be frugally used later in the week. Pytt i Panna is one of those dishes.
It was Gunnar’s turn to cook this simple one pan dish he described as being the height of his cooking skills. Even though it’s a Swedish staple, I’d never had it at home. I watched with delight as my favourite ingredients were added to the pan. Onions cooked until they’re sweet and just turning a gentle golden colour. Bacon for the hit of flavour and salt, with a smokiness that is essential to a good Pytt i Panna. In the old days it would have been the re-cooked smoked reindeer or pork. Then the left over boiled potatoes, cubed and just needing to be browned to give a crispness to the dish.
Carefully spooned into bowls, hot straight from the pan with a hollow created in the centre of each pile of potato it was wonderful comfort food. Then to my utter horror a raw egg yolk was gently slipped into the centre. Fresh, bright and shiny it was definitely raw. Everyone picked up their forks and gently whisked it in, creating an unctuous sauce for the dish which cooked in the residual heat. Reluctantly I copied them discovering that the egg quickly disappeared and was replaced by a scant but rich dressing, making this dish flavour perfection. It didn’t remind me of home but it now always reminds me of Sweden.
I made mine with sweet potato but otherwise stuck to a traditional recipe, each family has their own tweak but it’s essentially a four ingredient dish. If you don’t want to use the raw yolk substitute a poached egg instead.
Sweet Potato Pytt i Panna
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 15g butter
- 1 large onion finely diced
- 2 large Sweet potatoes, diced
- 160g Smoked pamcetta, diced
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 2 egg yolks
- Melt the butter and half the olive oil in a pan, add the onions and cook until just turning golden brown. Add the pancetta and the thyme leaves and cook until the pancetta is just starting to crisp.
- Remove from the pan and add the remaining olive oil, add the sweet potato in a single layer and leave, undisturbed, over a moderate heat until browned on the underside. If you keep poking at the sweet potato it will break up and may go to mush.
- Turn the potato and cook again until the underside has browned, add the pancetta and the onions back into the pan and mix together carefully.
- Divide between two bowls and make a dip in the centre and gently add the egg to the centre of the dish, serve immediately and whisk the egg into the sweet potato