Can pork be served rare?

Ceviche Photo: Edwina Pickles Acid test: Orange juice just won’t cut it for ceviche. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Can pork be served rare? E. Brown

In Australia we have a cultural memory that extends back to the northern hemisphere, where the bulk of our population originated. There you’ll find a nasty little parasitic worm called Trichinella spiralis. It lives in pigs but also in bears, horses, foxes and other furry animals.

If one were to eat the raw flesh of one of those animals (unlikely unless your name was Bear Grylls), you could contract trichinosis, which is like being taken over by hundreds of tiny aliens. Not pleasant.

Thoroughly cooking pork infected with Trichinella spiralis kills the parasites. According to Animal Health Australia, “Trichinella spiralis has never been diagnosed in animals in Australia.” Mitch Edwards from Australian Pork says, “Pork is as safe or safer to eat rare than almost any other meat”.

With those little facts under your belt, you should actually consider cooking the prime cuts of pork slightly rare. During cooking, fat equals both flavour and moisture. Modern pigs are bred to be lean.

If you cook lean pork until well done it can become dry, so Edwards recommends serving grilled and roasted pork dishes a little on the pink side.

Why do the vast majority of chefs remove the roe from scallops before cooking them? A. Knott

Scallop roe contains sperm and eggs that some diners consider to be especially delicious. I spoke to several chefs and some found the flavour of scallop roe too strong, one preferred to remove the roe for aesthetic reasons and one said she did it because the roe cooks faster than the white adductor muscle and dries out. Others leave roe on.

There is another reason. Some scallops have no roe. Generally, with commercial scallop species – the ones with shells shaped like an oil company logo – the roe is enlarged throughout the year and most are sold with the roe intact. Saucer scallop species have a round smooth shell, and a tiny roe that only enlarges around spawning time.

At other times of the year it looks like an unappetising membrane. During processing, the roe is removed from saucer scallops. Scallops need little preparation and cooking. Remove the dark tube and sear the scallops each side and allow to rest. The interior of the scallop should still be translucent and the roe nicely set.

What can I use instead of sherry vinegar? F. Donaldson

Sherry vinegar has a round nuttiness and oaky aroma that is hard to replace. Rice wine vinegar can replicate the smooth mouth feel and good wine vinegars aged on oak will give you the subtle aroma of wood.

Good apple cider vinegar, or perry vinegar made from pear cider, is very pleasant and can give some of sherry vinegar’s funky qualities. Use balsamic vinegar at a stretch but understand this will change the direction of the dish towards Italy.

Can I use orange juice instead of lemon or lime juice when making ceviche? G. Pascoe

I got this wrong a few weeks back when I wrote, “lemon juice is about 2.2 pH while orange juice has a pH of 3, making lemon juice eight times more acidic … so one needs to use more orange juice” to ”cook” the fish. I received emails terse enough to make me quote Kamahl: “Why are people so unkind?”

So I put the theory into practice and tried to make ceviche with lime, lemon and then orange juice. Lime juice denatured the protein, turning the flesh white and soft in 20 minutes. Lemon juice took 45 minutes.

Orange juice from a freshly squeezed navel orange left the fish firm and pink even when left in the fridge overnight. I threw that batch of fish out, along with the food science publication I had been referencing, and dined on the lime-infused fish and humble pie.


From D. Stone comes, “I recently read a book based in Cornwall in which a ‘morgy stew’ was referred to. I can’t find reference to it anywhere else. Can another reader please help?”

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