With a wee bit more fresh Thyme on my hands (hey it’s me! Pun was obviously intended), I decided to whip up a batch of Beef Goulash as well as home baked Focaccia for dinner earlier last week. Initially, I was thinking to just get bread rolls from the supermarket downstairs that sells decent Swiss-style breads. In the end, I decided to spoil Flo and my parents by making some from scratch. After all, I did have Thyme and time, so why not?

I’ve always had a thing for rich, hearty stews. There’s nothing more comforting than the smell of hot stew bubbling away while the aroma of tomatoes and herbs rise and sail through the air, tucking itself into every nook and cranny of our home. It reminds me very much of winter in Europe and nothing warms the body, and the soul, more than a pot of stew made with care and love.

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I added fresh vegetables as well as potatoes into this goulash although Flo mentioned that in Germany, they often cook the potatoes separately to their desired doneness, and serve it alongside. What he usually did was he’d take the potatoes, drown them in the goulash, and then mash the potatoes to mix with the gravy. Quite a clever idea and something I might do the next time around because with this recipe, it takes a while longer for the potatoes to cook through as the stew simmers away. Also, if you’re not careful, the potatoes might overcook.

It took me quite a few hours from start to finish making this pot of goulash. It’s good for about 4 portions so I made sure some went to Mum and Dad. When kept overnight or even the day after, the flavours meld together to yield an even more flavourful stew. It’s really a one-pot meal but add on fresh bread and it’s like the cherry on top! (Recipe for Focaccia is just a little further along.)

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Beef Goulash (Serves 4)

600g Chuck Beef, Diced into 1-2″ cubes
1 big Yellow Onion, Diced
5 Cloves Garlic, Minced
3 Carrots, Chopped into 1-2″ pieces
2 Red Bell Peppers, Cut in 1-2″ pieces
400g Potatoes, Cut into 1″ chunks

2 Tbsp Flour
1 Tbsp Sweet Paprika
1 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
1 Tbsp Cayenne Pepper
2 Bay Leaves
2 Sprigs Fresh Thyme, Leaves only

90ml Red Wine
500ml Beef Broth
85g Tomato Paste

  1. In a small bowl, add flour, spices and herbs together. Set aside.
  2. Heat dutch oven with some oil. Once hot, sear beef cubes on all sides in 2-3 batches. Remove and set aside.
  3. Cook onions until softened and translucent.
  4. Add in flour and spice mixture and stir for 1 minute.
  5. Add in red wine and cook a minute until slightly thickened.
  6. Add in beef broth and tomato paste. Return beef cubes into the pot. Bring to the boil then lower heat to a simmer for 1 hour 15min.
  7. Add vegetables and potatoes into the pot and cook a further 45min to an hour until potatoes are cooked through and beef cubes are tender. If mixture gets too dry or too thick for your liking, add in another half cup of water.
  8. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve! Although… if you let it cool and keep it overnight, it’s even better the next day as the flavours meld together.

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So I usually have my go-to recipe for fresh focaccia but couldn’t for the life of me find it when I decided that I wanted to bake some. That’s always the case isn’t it? I ended up browsing the internet, and within minutes, I found myself leaning towards Gordon Ramsey’s Focaccia Recipe which I ended up tweaking to suit the ingredients I had at home – Cherry Tomatoes and Thyme.

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This recipe was a snap to make and took just over an hour from start to finish. I guess our tropical temperature in Singapore is one thing to be grateful for because proving bread dough never takes too long.

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I made half a batch instead of a full batch which was perfect. Instead of a tray, I used my 8″ cake tin so that the focaccia baked into a beautifully round shape.

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The bread came out wonderfully crusty on the outside and oh-so-fluffy on the inside. Definitely ideal for mopping up all that beef goulash goodness!

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Thyme and Tomatoes Focaccia (Serves 4)

250g Bread Flour
1 tsp Salt
7g Instant-Action Dried Yeast
25ml Olive Oil + More to drizzle
160ml Warm Water
75g Cherry Tomatoes, halved
2-3 Sprigs Thyme, Leaves only
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
Garlic Paste (Optional)

  1. In a mixing bowl, add bread flour, salt and yeast (make sure salt and yeast are kept apart).
  2. Make a well in the middle of dry ingredients and add olive oil and warm water.
  3. Knead until smooth and elastic. I used the KitchenAid with the dough hook. It took about 8-10min.
  4. Remove dough and form a nice ball. Place into a well oiled bowl, covered lightly with a damp cloth or cling wrap and allow to prove until doubled in size – 30min to an hour in a warm place.
  5. Preheat oven to 200deg C.
  6. Punch down and place dough onto oiled tray. With slightly oiled fingers, prod the dough to make holes and tuck tomato halves into them. Sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper and thyme leaves. If desired, shmear some garlic paste here and there.
  7. Drizzle with more olive oil and bake 30 min until golden brown and hollow when knocked at the base.
  8. Remove from pan/tray and devour!

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It filled me with so much pleasure in being able to feed my loved one with food all made from scratch with heart. The extra bit of effort in making the focaccia was worth my while for sure especially when given two thumbs up from my two Bread Gurus Flo and Mama Tan.

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Yes, a little factual nugget for you all – My Mum is a total Bread Fiend and like most Europeans, is more than happy to have bread for all three meals. She’s especially fond of crusty rolls and baguettes, whether to fill with veggies, deli meats and/or cheese, or simply for dipping into soups. I guess that’s what growing up in London does to you. Unlike Flo though, Mum’s also partial to those Asian buns with fillings of tuna, curry chicken or adzuki bean paste. Flo on the other hand frowns at them and is adamant that they should not be considered bread.

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In Europe and the West, love is often shown through acts of affection, with hugs and kisses, with words. In Asia, people continue to be more conservative and restrained in their displays of affection especially amongst family members – i.e. parents to children. Perhaps things are changing now as compared to the generations before. While I was blessed growing up in an environment more open to displaying acts of love, I cannot deny that like most Asian families, food for me, is also another way in which I show love.

You will see in many Asian households, that love is exhibited when grandpa gives the big, juicy chicken drumstick (seen as the best part of the chicken) to his grandchild; when grandma eggs you on to eat more even when you are beyond stuffed; when aunties tell you you’ve gained weight and then tell you to have more food because you’re growing; when children dish food onto their parents’ plates; when fathers who view grunting as a form of communication with their offspring come home with a bag of their favourite desserts. It is in the artfully performed subtleties at the dinner table in which you will be able to see, and feel, the most love emanating amongst family members in Asia. And I guess having had a part of my life growing up here, I have unconsciously also come to use food as a language to convey my love for those dear to me.

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