Hospitality from the heart
Private banker Sandra Hee enjoys being around people and cooking for them, which is why her new home is designed to entertain friends and family. By Low Shi Ping
As a senior private banker of a foreign bank, Sandra Hee is no stranger to stress and long hours. To mitigate this, she cooks. Fortunately, her three children, husband and mother, who all live with her, “love to eat”, perfectly complementing her therapeutic hobby. Her friends are also lucky recipients of her kitchen experiments; she has them over almost every Friday for dinner, “I am a people person and having them around makes me happy.”
Entertaining by design
The hospitable foodie stands in the spacious dry kitchen of her 612 sq m semi-detached house in Bukit Timah, which she and her family moved into in March. In the middle of it is an expansive island measuring 1.25m by 4.3m, where she is plating the local snacks she has created for a tea party. That sense of space is further enhanced by floor-to-ceiling sliding doors that wrap arounds the dry kitchen – deliberately included by architect Rene Tan, co-founder of RT+Q Architects. The side looks out to the swimming pool running the length of the house; the back looks out to an al fresco terrace anchored by a long table that can sit 12. Beyond that is an unobstructed panorama of the southern part of Singapore, made possible because the house is built into a slope and elevated above the landed residential estate. “We always entertain on the terrace because it is also very windy,” reveals Hee.
The kitchens and back terrace take up approximately half the built area of the ground floor, which are the main areas she use when she entertains. “My pre-requisite to Rene, when we were designing the house, was that I had to have a big space for cooking,” shares Hee, as she lays the table. Another request she made was to have a pantry where she can, “in one look”, see what it contains, to help her decide what to cook. Tan’s solution was to glass off one end of the wet kitchen and line it with shelves for storage purposes. “He helped me make my dream come true,” Hee enthuses.
A varied repertoire
The spacious kitchen has bound the family even more closely together, “My elder daughter Nicole loves to cook, so we spend the weekends doing this. We like to make pasta, pita bread and pizza. I also learn to make Chinese food from my mother – many of the recipes are hers.” Hee’s repertoire also extends to sweets. Chocolate cake is one of her favourites, and she is trying to master ganache now. She counts tiramisu – which she serves in individual glass jars learnt from local dessert shop Awfully Chocolate – as one of her signature dishes (seafood paella is another), admitting her son Naaman is currently “in love” with it.
For the local snack themed tea party this afternoon, she has prepared steamed radish cake cake, glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves, banana cake with a sea salt gula melaka glaze and kueh kosui. A jar of home-made calamansi juice stands on the side to wash all the food down. The glutinous rice is a recipe of her mother’s, who watches over Hee as she unwraps the lotus leaf. “Preparing this makes me happy,” she says, “Because when you cut it up, it looks like a sunflower.” It proves to be a hit among her eight friends from church who have joined her today, in addition to Rene and his wife Wei Wei. Just as popular is the carrot cake, which is finished in a few minutes.
Hee says the decision on what to cook is guided by what she feels like at that moment in time, as well as what is in the pantry. While she turns to the internet for ideas and inspiration, her social circle, many of whom are home chefs too, also guide her in her hobby. “And of course, I have to practice. But I am lucky because I have good supporters to eat and critique my food, so I can improve.”
Recipe from Sandra Hee’s mother, Madam Teo Hong Kiew
Prep Time 30 minutes Cooking Time 1 hour 10 minutes
2 pieces of lotus leaves
500g glutinous rice
250g pork belly
2 Chinese sausages
5-6 pieces of mushrooms, soaked and sliced into thin slices
25g dried prawns, soaked to soften 30ml of oil left over from frying pork belly 60g shallots, peeled and finely chopped 30g garlic, peeled and finely chopped
40ml light soya sauce 20ml dark soya sauce 20ml oyster sauce 20ml sesame oil 10g sugar
A pinch of salt Half a rice bowl of water
• Soak lotus leaves in a sink or big basin with water until it softens. This usually takes about 20-30 minutes. Then transfer the leaves to a pot of boiling water. Put a plate on the leaves to keep the leaves down. Let it boil for 10 minutes. Remove and drain.
• Wash rice. Soak rice in water for 20mins. Remove and drain.
• Blanche pork belly with boiling water for 20 minutes. Remove and Drain. Cut into 0.5cm slices. Deep fry pork belly until golden brown. Set aside.
• Fry Chinese sausages. Cut into thin slices. Set aside.
• Sauté dried prawns with leftover oil and fry for 5 minutes.
• Add mushrooms and fry for 5 minutes.
• Add pork belly and Chinese sausages and fry for 5 minutes • Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
• Heat up 2 tsp sesame oil and add glutinous rice and fry for 2 minutes.
• Add the combined sauces and fry for 2 minutes, or until well mixed.
• Transfer to a bowl and bring it to steam for 20mins.
• Stir lightly and transfer to the lotus leave. Double wrap with 2 layers of lotus leaves. Steam for another 30 minutes.
• Cut open and garnish the top with fried shallots , spring onions and red chillies (optional), and serve.
BANANA CAKE WITH SEA SALT GULA MELAKA GLAZE
Recipe adapted from The Malay Kitchen Recipes for Thermomix
Prep time 10 minutes Bake time 45-60 minutes depending on oven
180ml vegetable oil
250g Cavendish bananas (use overripe bananas for best result)
180g plain flour, plus extra for dusting 1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
sea salt gula melaka glaze
50g gula melaka (melt over a double boiler) a pinch of sea salt
• Preheat oven to 150°C. Grease a loaf tin (10 cm x 23 cm) with oil and lightly dust with flour. Set aside.
• Insert butterfly whisk. Place eggs, sugar and vegetable oil into the mixing bowl.
• Add bananas, mix 15 seconds/speed 5.
• Add plain flour, baking soda and baking powder, mix 45 seconds/speed 3. Transfer batter into prepared loaf tin.
• Decorate the cake with thinly sliced banana (optional).
• Bake in preheated oven (150°C) for 45-60 minutes or until a cake tester skewer comes out clean when it is inserted in the centre of the cake.
• Remove cake from the oven and immediately brush the sea salt gula Melaka glaze over the top of the cake while the cake is warm.
• Allow the cake to cool in loaf tin for 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Slice and serve.
STEAMED RADISH CAKE
Recipe adapted from Easy Meals for the Family Recipes for Thermomix
Prep time 10 minutes Cooking time 1hour 5 minutes
150g rice flour 30g wheat flour 1.6 litres water 2 tsp salt 40g shallots
25g dried shrimps, rinsed
40ml oil, plus extra for greasing
4-5 mushrooms, soaked to soften, cut into thin slices
60g Chinese sausages, cut into thin slices 400g radish, grated
1 tsp chicken stock powder (optional)
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp spring onions, chopped
1 tbsp fresh red chillies, chopped
• Add rice flour, wheat flour and 200g of water together. Add salt and mix. Let it stand for 10 minutes. Strain with fine mesh strainer. Grease 5 aluminium foil cake moulds (11cm each) or baking tin with oil and set aside.
• Place shallots and dried shrimp into mixing bowl, chop 10 seconds/speed 6. Scrape down the sides of mixing bowl with spatula.
• Add oil, mushrooms and sausage, sauté 5 minutes/120°c/speed stir.
• Add radish, 400g water, chicken stock powder and sugar, cook 10 minutes/varoma/ speed stir.
• Add reserved flour mixture, mix 1 min/speed 2. Transfer the batter into the prepared baking tin. Grease batter surface with oil and use a spoon to flatten the surface.
• Place 1 litre of water into the mixing bowl, boil 8 minutes/varoma/speed 1.
• Set the Varoma into position, steam 30 minutes/varoma/speed 1. Carefully open Varoma lid, garnish with chopped spring onions and chillies. Serve warm.
Recipe from Shiokman Recipes.
Prep time 10 minutes Cooking time 35 minutes
90g tapioca starch 90g rice flour 340ml water
2/3 tsp lye water 220g gula Melaka 500ml water
6 pandan leaves screw pine 300g grated coconut 1/2 tsp salt
6 pandan leaves screw pine • Add tapioca starch and rice flour to water and mix well.
• Add lye water, mix well and set aside.
• Boil gula melaka in water with pandan leaves until gula melaka completely dissolves. • Remove pandan leaves and sieve the gula melaka water to remove any sediments.
• Stir the flour mixture before adding to the gula melaka water.
• Stir mixture with a whisk over low flame until it thickens and smoothens.
• Remove from flame and pour the mixture into a lightly oiled tray.
• Steam the kueh for 30 minutes.
• While the kueh is steaming, prepare another tray lined with pandan leaves.
• Add the grated coconut over the pandan leaves.
• Sprinkle salt and mix well.
• Place more pandan leaves all over the grated coconut.
• Steam for 10 minutes.
• Remove both trays from steamer after steaming has completed
• Set aside to cool down.
• Use ice scream scoop to scoop out bite-size kueh or cut with knife or scissors and coat with the steamed grated coconut. Serve.
Glutinous rice Banana cake with sea salt gula melaka glaze
Steamed radish cake Kueh Kosui