Pork loin with brawn and XO sauce

  • medium
  • 4
  • 1 hour 15 minutes plus 6-8 hours cooking time for the brawn and overnight chilling time
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Nina Matsunaga's deliciously porky dish combines flavours from Japan, China and Germany – with fantastic produce local to her restaurant The Black Bull, found right between the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District, taking centre stage. The XO sauce replaces the traditional dried shrimp, scallop and Chinese ham with more local Morecambe Bay brown shrimp and cured pork cheek and is one of the tastiest, most versatile condiments out there. It makes more than you need, but will happily sit in a jar in your fridge for months.

First published in 2021
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Deep-fried brawn

  • 1/2 pig's head
  • 50g of plain flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt and dash of milk
  • 100g of Panko breadcrumbs
  • vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Lotus root

  • 1 lotus root, sliced into 1cm-thick rounds
  • salt
  • sesame oil
  • 1 pinch of togarashi


XO sauce



Cook the pig’s head the day before serving as it has a long cooking time and needs to be chilled and set before being fried. Place the head in a large stock pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil then cover, turn down the heat and simmer for 6–8 hours until completely tender


Meanwhile, make the XO sauce. Gently heat the oil in a large pan or wok and add the shallots. Cook until soft then add the garlic and cook very slowly over a low heat for 8-10 minutes, or until the garlic is very soft but not burnt

  • 660g of vegetable oil
  • 7 shallots, large, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 garlic bulbs, cloves peeled and finely chopped

Add the brown sugar, cook until dark then add the rest of the ingredients apart from the soy, fish sauce, chicken stock and mirin. Cook for 10 minutes


Add the chicken stock and mirin, then continue to cook until the mixture thickens and becomes stew-like, with the oil floating on top of it . Remove from the head and season with the soy and fish sauce. Leave to cool, then store in jars – provided the jars are kept in the fridge and oil covers the top of the sauce at all times, the sauce should last for weeks

  • 120g of chicken stock
  • 4 tbsp of mirin
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of soy sauce, use aged soy sauce if you can find it
  • 30g of fish sauce

After the pig head has been simmering for 6-8 hours and is completely tender, gently lift it out of the water and leave to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, pick the meat from the bone, season it with a pinch of salt and pack tightly into a container lined with clingfilm. Cover with something heavy to press the meat down and leave to set in the fridge overnight


The next day, portion the set brawn into 4 large nuggets (any leftover brawn can be stored in the freezer). Set up a breadcrumbing station with a bowl of flour, a bowl of beaten egg and a bowl of the breadcrumbs. Roll the brawn nuggets in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs. Set aside on a tray in the fridge for later

  • 50g of plain flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt and dash of milk
  • 100g of Panko breadcrumbs

Season the pork loin with salt and pepper and place a large frying pan over a high heat. Once smoking hot, add a dash of oil and the pork. Cook in the pan for 8–10 minutes, rotating to get a nice even colouring of the loin. Leave to rest for 5 minutes before carving


As the loin rests, cook the spinach, lotus root and brawn. Place a small pan of oil over a medium heat. When a breadcrumb rises to the top and turns golden brown, the oil is ready. Deep-fry the breadcrumbed brawn until golden brown, then drain on kitchen paper and season with a pinch of salt

  • vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • salt

Pan-fry the lotus slices in a splash of sesame oil until cooked through– a minute or two on each side. Season with salt and a pinch of togarashi

  • 1 lotus root, sliced into 1cm-thick rounds
  • sesame oil
  • salt
  • 1 pinch of togarashi

Place a large frying pan over a medium heat with a dash of sesame oil. Add the spinach and wilt down for a couple of minutes. Season with salt


Carve the pork loin into 4 thick slices and top each piece with some of the XO sauce. Plate up on top of a small pile of the spinach and place the fried lotus beside it with a nugget of deep-fried brawn cut in half. Finish with another spoonful of the XO sauce

First published in 2021

Born in Germany to Japanese parents, Nina Matsunaga and her partner James Ratcliffe now run The Black Bull in Sedbergh, a beautiful pub on the edge of the Lake District, where she cooks local ingredients full of international influences.

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