Seven bowls of Goulash


I went to Budapest to discover how the Hungarians really ate their Goulash. It turns out, it’s not what you think it is. It’s much better than that. I hope you like the film.

Tim Halket’s Seven Bowls of Goulash from Tim Halket on Vimeo.

My thanks as always to my brilliant producer Juliet Baird, and Alan Deakins, and Finn McCleave.

An appetite for Goulash

Just got back yesterday from a couple of nights inBudapest. What a place!

I went to shoot a little film about Goulash, trying to find the essence of the dish, to find out how they cook it. It often happens that an English-language cookbook version of a meal will be wildly different from any authentic local version. And I certainly found this to be true. Without giving anything away, I promise you that the six bowls I was filmed eating, were significantly different. Similar, obviously, but clearly different to varying degrees.

I had three different bowls of Goulash in the morning – breakfast, elevenses and ten-twenty-fives, all upstairs at the Central Market. There’s a row of little food stalls all selling simple, brilliant, inexpensive food. You take your bowl of soup and sit perched at a bar on a stool overlooking the market. Lunch was goulash in a tiny neighbourhood restaurant, crowded with local pensioners getting an inexpensive hot meal, or working-men eating huge platefuls of stewed meat, cabbage and potatoes. Tea-time, and I was the scruffy odd-one-out eating goulash in The New York Café; an utterly extravagant froth of renaissance and baroque gilded plasterwork with marble columns and floors. Cherubs frolicked across the ceiling as I ate. Dinner was Goulash at the director’s favouriteBudapesthangout – The Calgary Bar. It’s a tiny place, the walls crammed with objects and curios. Viky, the owner, former model and reputed beauty-queen, had made the goulash herself. Just as we were about to start filming, a piano player she had arranged walked in. Completely unexpected by us, and straight out of a casting director’s dream, he played everything we asked for – from Hungarian Folk to Tom Jones. It’s just that kind of place.

I haven’t got a recipe for goulash yet. I went with the intention of trying out as many as I could in one day. Seeing what I could learn from them, glean some little special details, taste them, and form an opinion. Looking back now, they all had something to teach me. That’s how good food-writing starts, I hope. I’ll begin cooking and writing early next week, assuming I have the appetite for another bowlful by then.

New Year – New Blog

My new year’s resolutions:
Don’t keep putting things off (like starting this blog).
Cook everything that The Saladman brings (he delivers a weekly veg-box every Friday).
Other than that, it’s just the usual guff about restraint, compassion, helpfulness and other such niceties.

At the end of last year my publisher, Anne at Grub Street, cajoled and persuaded me to take up twittering. I honestly believe that the contract for my second book landing on my doormat shortly after my first twitterings was an unrelated matter – purely coincidental timing. Anyway, it turns out I didn’t need to be afraid of twitter, and I even enjoy it, on most occasions. Twitter is quite a busy forum for foodwriters so I’m feeling right at home there. I’ll get a link and a feed to my twitterings up on this site as soon as I can figure out the techie stuff.

The other person in my professional life is Juliet. We’ve started a little fledgling TV production company together. She wants me to “blog and build a web-presence”. I’ll have to look that up. Our plan is simply to make some brilliant TV shows. Inevitably these’ll have an emphasis on food, and there’s already a couple of things in the “pre-production” stage. I will be in some of the shows. It’s very exciting. We’re also taking a micro-crew to Budapest at the end of January to film some showreel footage and do some rehearsals. I expect bits of that will get posted on here in time.

Whilst food writing is necessarily autobiographical (how can I possibly write about food and recipes if I haven’t experienced, cooked and eaten it all myself first), I’m not terribly comfortable writing about myself in a broader sense. So by way of an introduction, here is the blurb from the back of my first book Five Fat Hens, I haven’t changed a word, which explains the slightly out of place (on a blog) use of third person narrative:

Tim Halket was born in Bromsgrove in 1967. Aged ten his family moved to Cambridge. He left school at sixteen with few formal qualifications and worked for a while as a draughtsman. He met his future wife, Annie, on his seventeenth birthday. In his early twenties he opened an art gallery in Cambridge, later enrolling at the Architectural Association to study Architecture. He has spent his recent years as a full-time house-husband and fits his writing in around his children’s needs. Throughout his life food has remained a constant comfort and he continues to write about food, whether it is for his local parish magazine or his next book. Any spare time is spent with his family and friends or trying to keep his old sportscars on the road. He lives in Suffolk with his wife and three children. He cooks for them everyday.

So plenty to do, and it will get done eventually. Recipes, food issues, video clips and general ramblings – all regularly updated. So please keep coming back, or sign up for automatic notifications (just as soon as I’ve figured that bit out).