Beginner’s Choice: Sunday Cooking-made-Simple

In last week’s post (Solution to the Packed Lunch Challenge), I introduced my friend Ferninda. She wanted to know how to go about planning packed lunches for the whole week, which have to be cooked on Sunday, the only day possible in a busy week. Currently, her husband packs his own lunch. Ferninda wanted to see how the packed lunches could be more varied and more balanced.

Getting started

She also wanted some help to get started on cooking, but she has to be a Sunday cook for now. A great way to start is to be inspired to cook!  When you have a reason to do something, you are more likely to be motivated to do it, and if you are motivated, you are more likely to do it well.

Cooking – A simple process

Cooking is simply the process of applying heat to food to make it more digestible and palatable. It softens the tissues of meat and increases flavour. It also kills bacteria.

We need food to survive; we need nutrients to be healthy; we need someone to plan our meals so that we eat what is good for us; we need someone to cook meals which are safe for us to eat; we need someone who cares about our health, safety, well-being and happiness, who ensures that we eat the right food at the right time and that we have what we like on special occasions. That person is usually a mother!

Mothers are incredible people. They are carers, they are educators, they are motivators, and they have (almost) infinite patience.

Cooking – A life skill

Cooking is an important life-skill. Cooking is not just the act of following a recipe and producing a dish. Cooking involves:

Meal planning – to ensure that meals provide the necessary nutrition

Budgeting to ensure that meals are within the family spending budget

Acquiring food selection skills to know how to buy the best quality food at the best prices and within the food budget

Developing time-management skills – to have a schedule for meal planning, shopping, and keeping accounts of grocery bills. To have a plan for cooking time (how much time to allocate to preparation of ingredients, to cooking and to clearing up)

Learning cooking techniques – to learn the basic knife skills and cooking techniques

Learning basic food safety principles – to prevent food hazards and contaminations

Now, all of the above might seem a lot, but mothers are great at multi-tasking.

There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the family enjoy mealtimes and knowing that the meals are contributing to everyone’s health and well-being.

So much for the philosophy behind cooking, now to get down to specifics. It is good to start by listing the main cooking methods:












Why is it important to know the cooking methods? The answer is simply that cooking with only one method makes the food boring, and possibly less healthy. For example, if one only boils everything or one only fries everything.

Food contains nutrients. When food is cooked, some nutrients are lost. Some cooking methods cause more nutrients to be lost than others. Generally, more nutrients are lost when food is overcooked. More nutrients are lost when vegetables are boiled than when they are steamed, microwaved or stir-fried. More nutrients are lost when more water is added to food when cooking. The liquid in stews and soups is consumed, so the nutrients are not lost completely. When cooking meat with dry heat like grilling or roasting, nutrients are lost when moisture is lost.

The raw and the cooked

As a general guide, a mixture of raw and cooked food produces a healthier diet. The following are examples of combinations of raw and cooked food:

Lemongrass pork with fresh rice paper spring rolls

Chinese roast pork with ikan bilis, prune and cherry tomato salad

Lemongrass pork

There are a number of recipes online for Vietnamese lemongrass pork, like the one at: Vietnamese Lemongrass Pork Recipe –

Elena recommends cooking lemongrass pork with ½ kg of pork fillet. It only takes 20 minutes to cook in the oven. The marination is best done overnight for maximum flavour.

The main ingredients for the marinade are:

1 stalk of lemongrass (finely chopped)

½ of an onion (finely chopped)

 4 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

1 tablespoon of brown sugar

1 tablespoon of fish sauce

1 tablespoon of dark soya sauce

1 tablespoon of oil.


Either blend or pound the lemongrass, onion and garlic together. Then add the brown sugar, fish sauce, dark soya sauce and oil and mix well.

Marinate the pork and leave overnight in the fridge.

Take the pork out 15 minutes before roasting, leave at room temperature while pre-heating the oven. It is best to roast the pork at moderate heat between 325 and 350 degrees F (160 to 175 degrees C).

Place the pork on a baking rack in a baking pan. (Lining the pan with aluminium foil makes it easier to clean). The baking pan should not be too big, so that the juice from the meat will not dry up and burn. The dripping can be used to make a sauce.)

Roast the pork for 20 minutes.

(There are several ways of checking the doneness of the meat. The shape and the size of the meat can affect the time needed to cook. One way is to pierce the meat, if the juice is clear, the meat is cooked. The best way of checking the doneness is to check the internal temperature of the meat using an old-fashioned meat thermometer. Pork is at done at 145 degrees F (63 degrees C).

Vietnamese lemongrass pork can be served with rice or bread (baguette).

Chinese roast pork

There are many different ways of roasting pork.

Char Siu in mantou

There are good recipes online for Chinese roast pork, like the one at: Chinese Roast Pork Recipe – Flavorite

I like to cook char siu pork using a ready-made marinade (available in most supermarkets). It helps when I don’t have much time.


½ kilo pork collar

Char siu sauce

1 tablespoon of cornflour (for sauce)


Marinate the pork with char siu marinade and leave it in a plastic container in the fridge overnight.

Take it out and leave in at room temperature while pre-heating the oven for 15 minutes at 329 degrees F (165 degrees C)

Place the pork on a roasting rack in a baking tray (line the baking tray with aluminium foil so that it is easier to clean after cooking)

Roast for 20 minutes at 160 degrees C. Turn the pork over and brush with more marinade. Roast for another 20 minutes.

(There are several ways of checking the doneness of the meat. The shape and the size of the meat can affect the time needed to cook. One way is to pierce the meat, if the juice is clear, the meat is cooked. The best way of checking the doneness is to check the internal temperature of the meat using an old-fashioned meat thermometer. Pork is at done at 145 degrees F (63 degrees C).

Use the drippings from the roast pork to make a sauce. Mix one tablespoon of cornflour with two tablespoons of water. Pour the drippings from roast pork into a small pot. Add the cornflour and water mixture and stir over a low fire until the sauce thickens. Add salt to taste. 

Vietnamese fresh spring rolls

I have always liked Vietnamese dishes for their freshness and non-greasiness. Fresh Vietnamese spring rolls are easy to make and there are many recipes available online. ( Simple Fresh Vietnamese Spring Roll Recipe by Master Chi Chan – Cookpad; Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls Recipe • Curious Cuisiniere )

Many years ago, Lea made fresh spring rolls with the following ingredients:

  1. Rice paper
  2. Slices of ham
  3. Slices of cucumber
  4. Slices of ripe mango

It was very refreshing and didn’t require any cooking.

Vietnamese dips are healthy. A simple dip can be made within a few minutes by dissolving two tablespoons of sugar in half a cup of warm water, adding half a cup of vinegar, and one tablespoon of fish sauce.

Ikan bilis, prunes and tomato salad

Angie sent me a photo of a salad she made. She thought that Ferninda might like it.

Angie’s ikan bilis, prunes and cherry tomato salad

I have never thought of putting ikan bilis (dried anchovies) in a salad, but it is a great idea, because ikan bilis is rich in calcium. Adding prunes to the salad adds sweetness to an otherwise plain salad.

Roast duck wrap

Belinda sent a photo of leftover roast duck, which was served as a wrap.

“Leftover roasted duck meat in hoisin sauce can be made into wraps for quick meals.” Belinda

Reasons for this week’s recommendation

I am recommending roast meat and salads for a reason. While the meat is roasting, there is time to make the salad (or fresh spring rolls). Roasting and making salads creates less washing up. There is more time to rest on Sunday, while enjoying a healthy home-cooked meal. An added bonus is that leftover roast meat and salads are good for packed lunches. They can also be used to make sandwiches and wraps.

Ferninda has many people wanting to help her to get stated on cooking! We wish her all the best for her cooking endeavours.

A special thanks to Elena, Angie and Belinda for their contributions to this post.

By Chayo, HomSkil Editor 1, 29 August 2021

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