Tamsin Day-Lewis’ risotto balsamico


I was returning form one of those meetings in London – probably a BPS Developmental Section or an AHPD meeting many years ago, and was walking back to Waterloo or wherever I had to get to. I think I was on Southampton Row. And there was a bookshop with books on tables on the roadside. Cheap. And there was this little white paperback, looking like fiction, by Tamsin Day-Lewis, called Where shall we go for dinner? I only picked it up because of the name, and because I had recently seen something of, and been captivated by, Daniel Day-Lewis. I opened it and it opened to this recipe. It looked amazing. I was in need of cooking inspiration, so I bought two special Denby (or something) bowls to make and serve this in (the kids were little and not eating with us) – the bowls are dark outside, pale inside to show off the balsamic rim around the white rice…. It really was good. It helped, of course, that I had just been given a present of a super Balsamic – almost gooey – I think it was Ruth Woods on return from Parma (according to TD-L, you need the most expensive, sticky, mellow balsamic vinegar – ordinary ones will not do).


2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

30g/10oz unsalted butter

1 small shallot, finely minced

1 stick celery, strung and finely minced

225g/8oz Carnaroli rice

1 small glass dry white Italian wine

Upto 850ml/1½ pints intense home made chicken stock

More unsalted butter for finishing the risotto

Freshly grated Parmesan

Sea salt and black pepper

Best balsamic vinegar


Heat the olive oil and butter in a wide, shallow but heavy bottomed pan. When they begin to bubble add the shallot, celery and a bit of salt, stir until they begin to soften. (Meanwhile heat the wine in another saucepan). Throw the rice into the pan, stir until fully coated, then add the heated wine in slowly, stirring all the time as it bubbles and begins to be absorbed. Now add the hot chicken stock, a ladle or two at a time and do NOT stop stirring for the next 22 minutes (!) for more than a minute at a time. And this I didn’t know – apparently the stirring is what releases the starch from the rice and gives it its gloopy texture.

When the risotto is still just al dente, add the last ladle of stock with a knob of butter, handful of grated Parmesan and some pepper (white, if possible to keep the colour pure). Out the lid on, turn off heat, leave for 5 minutes (to let the flavours mingle) then give one final stir.

Now put q good tablespoon of the best balsamic in the base of each shallow bowl, then carefully heap a mound of white risotto over it. The edges of balsamic should form a lovely dark ring around the white mound. It looks and tastes gorgeous!