LAST year was pretty incredible, wasn’t it? Highs and lows, from floods and hurricanes to the wonderful Olympic summer and the (for me) relieving sight of Mitt Romney’s caravan heading back over the horizon.

For food, though, it was a strange year, and that’s not just because of the hilarious ‘Pastygate’ kerfuffle, more that nothing much happened.

There was no specific new cuisine coming to the fore, although everyone was certainly clambering aboard the Scandinavian wagon in greater numbers. The success of Noma, chef-forager Rene Redzepi’s astonishing Copenhagen restaurant and others such as Sweden’s Frantzén/Lindeberg and Fäviken, way up in the desolate north, paved the way for lots of chefs to try the clean, fresh New-Nordic cuisine.

If you’re a betting person, the serious money’s on South America taking over soon – look out for lots of trendy churrasco joints, full of charred rare steak, smoked sausage and sweet potatoes. Here in the UK, another fad developed, following on from the spate of upmarket steakhouses popping up over the last few years, and a general turn back towards big protein stuff, and thoughtful meat cookery. Gourmet fast food was definitely on-message, as the numerous high-profile openings of swish burger and BBQ joints such as Byron and PittCueCo. proved, and London’s Bubbledogs really did offer only a selection of top-end hotdogs paired with a wine list almost entirely made up of Champagnes.

Up here, too, Anthony Flinn’s Rib Shakk in Leeds (I’m desperately trying to ignore that awful spelling) made the most succulent ribs I’ve ever tasted, and sister restaurants Fazenda and our very own Botafogo introduced the natives to the delights of proper Brazilian feijoada.

2012 appeared also to be the

year of bacon. It seems the only thing bacon wasn’t in was in a simple sandwich. I myself always recommend the Hot Cross Bun variant at Easter time, but some people have been taking bacon to ever greater heights this year.

One of Manchester’s newest restaurants, the brilliant SoLiTa, tucked away in the city’s hippest Northern Quarter enclave, offered some of the best burgers anywhere on the planet, along with deep-fried macaroni and cheese, pulled pork sundaes (made with buttery mash) and great meat platters.

Bacon was in heavy use, being Kentucky-fried (yes, it was as good as you think), candied in thick crunchy caramel to serve with ice-cream, and made into a sweet-savoury jam that is up there with some serious competition for my ‘The Best Thing I Ate In 2012’ award.

It was so good; I had to make my own. And so here we are at today’s recipe.

It’s the perfect toast-topper, whether for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, and devilishly easy to make.

You should insist on good, top-notch dry-cured bacon, though. The last thing you want is a roasting tray full of salty water when you’re trying to render the fat off the bacon. Consult an expert butcher.

Feel free, also, to play with the flavourings if you like. Add more or less chili, perhaps some spices or dried herbs.

It’s up to you, but what you’re after in the end is a deep, rich sticky paste that’s almost impossible to leave alone. You’ll find you’re putting it on everything.

It’s great swirled into hot pasta, smeared into sandwiches, or warmed as a tasty dip for grissini or even crudités, and you’ll probably find the jar is emptied very quickly.

Aprons on!

For the jam:

1½ lbs dry-cured streaky bacon

A splash of olive oil

2 large white onions, very finely sliced

8 large cloves garlic, minced

100g unrefined dark muscovado sugar

120ml cider or red wine vinegar

180ml strong coffee

75ml good maple syrup

1 tbsp tomato purée

½ tsp chili flakes

Freshly-ground black pepper

To serve:

Sourdough bread, for toasting


Fresh, free-range eggs

A splash of maple syrup

A little chopped parsley


Some suitable preserving jars


Heat the oven to 200ºC / gas mark 6. To make the jam, slice the bacon into fine strips and fry gently in a little oil to help the cooking process start and get the strips separated.

Tip the bacon into a wide, high-sided baking tray and bake in the oven, turning occasionally, until the bacon is completely cooked through and crispy, and has rendered out all of the fat.

Remove from the oven, and strain off the fat.

Set the bacon aside, and put the fat back into the pan.

Gently sweat the onions and garlic until translucent, which should take at least half an hour.

Add the chili and sweat for a minute more.

Add the sugar, vinegar, coffee, maple syrup and tomato purée, bring to the boil and bubble for 2 minutes, stirring all the time.

Reduce heat to a gentle

simmer, and add the bacon along with a few grinds of pepper.

Cook over a very gentle heat for a couple of hours, stirring well, and adding a little water if the mixture gets too sticky.

Spoon into a blender or food processor in batches, and process until almost smooth.

Sterilise your preserving jars, either by popping them in the oven for 5 minutes, or using sterilising fluid.

Pour the jam into the jars, seal, and allow to cool before refrigerating.

It will keep for several weeks, but I pretty much guarantee it’ll be long gone way before then.

To serve my way, reheat the jam in a pan, and lightly butter thick slices of toasted sourdough.

Smear with a good dollop of sizzling hot jam, and top with a fried egg, a sprinkle of parsley and a squirt of maple syrup.