May 1, 2012

Lisa Ray's 'Open Kitchen' Feature

Canadian Lisa Ray is a well known actress, model, host, activist and cancer graduate who was raised in Toronto by an Indian father and Polish mother. It is her love of food and exposure to cuisine all over the world that brought her to her exciting role as host of Top Chef Canada. Lisa has starred in Bollywood Hollywood and Oscar nominated Water, as well as more than 27 other film and television titles.

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Your fave kitchen utensil/gadget?

I have a favourite spatula which I always reach for. I can't start sautéing without it. My blender ties for second along with my mortar and pestle for grinding Indian spices.

What would we typically find in your fridge?

Fresh, organic berries. Bunches and bunches of coriander - it lends a signature flavor to a lot of dishes I prepare. Hummus is always on hand to help stave off cravings while cooking. Favorite greens are spinach and broccoli for quick stir fries. Yogurt is a must for marinating meats and adding to sauces in place of heavy creams. Pre-peeled cloves of garlic (in an air tight container) is on hand as it's an important component of a lot of Mediterranean dishes I make - even a store bought tomato sauce gets zippier with sautéed garlic. Lemons are always on hand along with artisanal cheeses, olives, roti and naans. I have a container of a mixture called "tarka" which is the base for cooking Indian lentils called daal. I also keep organic chicken stock on hand for a wet sautéing technique which was taught to me by an indigenous healer and chef from Nelson, BC, called Michael Smith. There's always loads of white wine, mustards and hot sauces in my fridge along with green chillis and fresh basil. Oh and lots of juices from Belmonte Raw!

Your signature dish?

Thai chicken and Basil Salmon

What were your must-have kitchen layout requirements?

The island was a late addition but also a must. I've cooked and lived all over the world so I'm used to being innovative in smaller, more rustic spaces. For instance, in Europe kitchens are more compact but it certainly doesn't compromise the quality of preparation.

What was your biggest kitchen splurge?

Our kitchen Island. Custom made by Hardware in Leslieville,in Toronto, marble counter top from Caledonia Marble and the adorable yet stoic Luigi.

Where did you get your love for cooking?

My parents first. My mother was also passionate about organic sustainable eating before there was such a concept. She used to take me on expeditions to Holland Marsh where we would dig produce ourselves from the farmer's fields and bring barrels home to store in our root cellar. When we went fishing we would consume fresh river trout or sea bass and since my mom was from Poland she knew which mushrooms to pick in the forest (I don't recommend doing this without someone who absolutely knows what they are doing). My mom was a culinary visionary and most of my childhood activities revolved around gathering and preparing food. My dad prepared Indian meals every weekend and loved to cook. It was an adventure sourcing Indian ingredients in Toronto in the 70s and 80s. I started cooking when I lived in Paris and Milan and absorbed a lot of northern Italian attitudes towards food preparation and the pleasure of sharing a meal.

Your guilty food pleasure?

A very simple but beautifully prepared spaghetti with aglio e olio - just garlic and olives oil with a dash of pepper. I can consume plates. I am also crazy about Konkani coastal dishes. The prawn curries you get in Cochin in India are lust-worthy. Oh and mangosteens which I first tried in Malaysia. They are like a cross between a strawberry and a lychee.

Food aversions?

Cauliflower and Marmite.

Fave cookbook authors?

Jamie Oliver, Vikram Vij, Madhur Jaffrey, Mark McEwan.

Complete this sentence: People would be surprised to find out...

That for my film 'water' I lived in an Indian village and learned to prepare food on a chula or open fire for weeks on end. I'm rusty but I can prepare rotis like a village girl. Oh yes - and I eat like a trucker.

(source: courtesy

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