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Through Mark Pennington’s kitchen window

There are so many people on Bowen who not only love to eat, but love to cook. While some our foodie friends kindly offer us the opportunity to taste their food by opening up restaurants, there are so many others whose food-lives are unknown to us.
Bowen Islander Mark Pennington serves up his comfort food: Paella.

There are so many people on Bowen who not only love to eat, but love to cook. While some our  foodie friends kindly offer us the opportunity to taste their food by opening up restaurants, there are so many others whose food-lives are unknown to us. This column is an attempt to pry open the kitchen windows of our local friends and neighbours who have a passion for cooking. Some of them are trained chefs, some of them make a living from cooking, and others are self-taught, excellent, passionate home-cooks.
If you know of a foodie who needs featuring, please contact:
This week, we are featuring Bowen Islander Mark Pennington who is a trained baker and confectioner who now makes a living selling chocolate.

What’s your favourite kitchen utensil? (of all time, or maybe of the moment)
I love my Wustof German Chefs knives and my Shun Japanese Santoku Knife, they make preparing fine cuisine a breeze.

What’s your comfort food?
Paella is my favorite comfort food and favourite meal to cook, it is so easy. When I was eight years old, my family took a package holiday in Spain where I had my first Paella. To this day it’s my greatest meal ever in a restaurant, I’ve been trying  to replicate its magic ever since, my recipe below is pretty close.

If you could only have one cook book…
Marco Pierre White “White Heat” the Finest Cook book ever created. Michelin 3 star master Chef  Marco Pierre White trained Gordon Ramsay and set the standards of fine cuisine in the late 80s. Marco was perhaps the first celebrity chef.

Who’s your biggest culinary influence, and what did they teach you?
My mother was a magnificent cook and from an early age I loved her food and I learned how to copy her classic meals. Professionally my first mentor was a master baker and confectioner in Leeds, UK, named Earnest Bradney. The reason I’m living in this beautiful Country is because Earnest gave me a job, trained me and sent me to baking school on my days off. The certificates from that baking school got me into Canada.

When did you realize you loved to cook?
About age six, watching my wonderful mother cook a chicken curry, the smells from the kitchen blew me away. After that I was always experimenting: beans on toast, poached eggs, rice puddings, chicken curry and lasagne. I took home economics cooking in high school; I knew for sure I wanted a career involving food.

Tell me about a culinary challenge, and how you overcame it. (for example, when you had to adapt to a particular diet or allergy, or when you had to learn a totally new cooking style.)
My chef life was always full of daily deadlines and challenges, but I would say working for Capers in West Vancouver, where I managed the bakery from 1996 to 2001, was my biggest challenge. Learning to use different organic flours like kamut, spelt and rice flours and constantly creating recipes for dietary requests. I loved my years at Capers in Dundarave, a bakery with an ocean view and a beach 50 yards away.

How has living on Bowen influenced your cooking?
Living on Bowen means we have to cook fresh home-made meals all the time, thankfully no fast food outlets here so dinner really is a daily creation. The dinner menu really is the most important thing in our household.

What are you cooking/eating lately?
We are eating a lot of Thai style food of late and experimenting with new chillies such as ghost chillies… but chocolate is my life so it always comes into the dessert equation. Honestly my wife makes a better chocolate dessert than me: she makes a flourless chocolate cake with chantilly cream and home-made Okanagan Brandied cherries, it’s sensational.

My best Go to Dessert creation is a Triple Cacao Berry Chocolate Mousse is another fave served In a Martini glass. I use Zephyr 34% Inaya 65% and Alunga Milk 41% for a quick easy dessert that never fails. Recipe included also below.

Paella recipe
1lb Chicken thighs or breast diced into chunks.
1lb medium prawns
12 large prawns for decorating top
1 squid or octopus if available
3 large spicy Chorizo sausages
2 large Spanish onions
2 cups fresh or frozen peas
2 small jars of Ruddy Potato South African spicy sweet peppers
1lb of Paella rice
1lb Mussels salt spring island
Bunch chopped parsley
Smoked paprika as much as you want
Half Tsp Curry powder
1 litre Chicken stock home made
2 tsps quality saffron threads

Sauté one onion and cook down chopped chorizo and half cook chicken, shrimp , and reserve for later.
Then sauté second onion, add rice and then add chopped peppers and spices and then add hot chicken stock as needed. Do not stir, use medium heat. When rice is 80% cooked mix chicken and prawns into rice mixture. Then place mussels and squid prawns into the rice mixture and finish on the BBQ or under the broiler.

Triple Cacao Berry Chocolate Mousse
Easy 10 minute recipe

1litre whipping cream
200 grams Dark 65% Inaya Cacao Barry Chocolate
200 grams milk 41% Alunga Cacao Barry Chocolate
200 grams white Zephyr Cacao Barry Chocolate

Whip cream, to soft sloppy consistency of thick custard sauce. Share cream out into 3 separate bowls approx 330ml per bowl.
Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave carefully until warm to the touch. Quickly add the chocolate into the cream mixture using spatula but don’t overmix. Then portion into 4 or 6 martini glasses approx 1 third filled.
Repeat exactly with Milk mousse next and add on top of the dark mousse in the martini glass,
Repeat with white and add to the martini glass. Sprinkle with shaved chocolate or chocolate drizzle Inaya again. For extra “wow” factor add Callebaut crisp pearls to the milk and dark mousses for texture.
All ingredients I can source for anyone wanting to make this.