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

Epicure - - AT HOME WITH -

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.”

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