Bill's Baked Tuna Risotto

Last Christmas I was saddened to hear the news that Bill Granger had gone. When I first came across the book "Sydney Food" at the start of the new century, it felt refreshing and joyful. There were many high-profile books published at the time that I found repetitious and dull, but Bill's sunny, carefree food was never forbidding and always relaxed and interesting. Reading his recipes made me want to make them or, at least, something inspired by them. If I strayed away from the details of his recipes here and there, it didn't seem to matter. For me, cooks that inspire in that way are rare and always uplifting.  

Since then, I've collected a modest pile of his books and made many meals over the years using his recipes, even if I've altered them a bit along the way. Incidentally, BG was called the "egg king" because of his famous, Australian-style scrambled eggs made with a serious amount of cream, but, I suppose because of my European background, that's one of the few recipes that has never really appealed to me. Sorry, Bill.

 Sydney Food

Of all his recipes, this very easy but very tasty “risotto” is the one I've made the most. I've probably strayed away from Bill's original as the years go by (I haven't checked) but I'm sure that he wouldn't object. Back in my working days, if I was getting home late, I'd buy a few courgettes from the local shop, grab the rest of the ingredients from the cupboard and put this together as quickly as possible. It was always successful and unfailingly pleasing and soothing. Years later, it's still a dish I revisit. 

Just a few notes about the recipe (or my version of it): 

  • Tuna in olive oil gives the best feel and flavour, I think, but tuna in spring water will work, if you're cutting down on fat. The better the quality of the tuna, then the better the “risotto” will be. In this country, that usually means the excellent Spanish products that turn up quite widely. I admit that they're rarely cheap, but they're worth it. 

  • Use whatever risotto rice you have or prefer. I always use carnaroli rice, but that's because another hugely inspiring chef, Antonio Carluccio, told me back in the 1980s that it's the rice I should always have in my cupboard. So I do.

  • Yes, I know that this isn't truly a risotto. It's a baked rice dish. We could debate this in more detail, but it's a good day for surfing in Australia and, in the UK, there's a some cricket on TV that needs watching. 

  • This will serve 2, quite generously.

I'll miss the imaginative food and the forever genial smile. 

Thanks, Bill.

Bill's Tuna Risotto

1 shallot or ½ onion, finely-chopped

150g drained weight of tuna from a jar or can (The exact amount isn't too crucial).

150g risotto rice

185ml vegetable stock (chicken or fish will be fine too, but veg stock made with bouillon powder is so much easier and quicker, if you're busy) 

200g chopped tomatoes, from a can

2 small (or 1 large) courgettes, finely sliced (Again, don't worry too much about the exact size)

A little balsamic glaze (and maybe some grated Parmesan), to finish

Heat the oven to 180°C (fan). Find a lidded casserole, ideally one you can use on the hob as well as in the oven - I use a 2.6 litre cast-iron casserole dish.

Soften the shallot or onion in oil over a medium heat for 5 minutes (or a bit longer, if you have the time). Add the rice and stir for 1 minute or so.

Add the stock and chopped tomatoes. Stir in the drained tuna, breaking up any larger pieces, followed by the sliced courgettes. Bring to a simmer and season with salt and pepper. Cover and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

To serve, you don't need to do much but, I think, a little drizzle of balsamic glaze on the finished dish is nice. I think Bill might have finished with some grated Parmesan, so don't let me stop you doing the same.


  1. I had never heard of Bill Grainger until I saw a recipe of his on a blog somewhere. It may even have been yours. Since then I have collected a few of his cook books from charity shops and every recipe I have tried has been delicious. I wish I had seen his TV series as I'm sure I would have enjoyed it. I always feel sad when someone talented and inspiring dies, especially when like Bill it was way too young.
    This recipe sounds just right for the two of us so thanks for posting it. I shall keep a lookout for this book too.

    1. I must confess that I'm not sure which book has the original recipe for this dish. I may even have taken it from one of his TV appearances. (I've been too busy to check - I hope that Bill would forgive me.) Although he made more TV later, I have fond memories of his first, Australian series. There was something charmingly simple about it. It showed Sydney and Sydney food at its sun-drenched best, even if it was a slightly unreal Sydney. I was already aware of some fine Australian food and food writers, but Bill was different and appropriately laid-back. After that first book and the TV series, he was always known (affectionally, of course) as Smiling Bill in our house. Gone far, far too young.


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