Kangaroo Island produces some of Australia's best ingredients--just what one cook needs for five quick recipes.
If great ingredients are the key to no-fuss recipes, then Australia's Kangaroo Island is a cook's paradise. I've been eating Kangaroo Island honey since I was a kid, but it was Max Poulos--a foodie know-it-all in Sydney, where I live--who first turned me on to the rest of the island's products. When I went to Poulos's specialty-food shop to buy my honey, he amazed me by pulling all kinds of Kangaroo Island finds from behind the counter: olive oil; tangy sheep's milk yogurt; Australian versions of Brie, Camembert, feta, Manchego and fresh ricotta.
Poulos explained that this 100-mile-long island just off the coast of South Australia has a "clean green" environment with fertile soil and a temperate climate. These are idyllic conditions for wildlife like kangaroos, koalas, wallabies and sea lions--and for premium ingredients. Corn-fed and free-range, the chickens raised on Kangaroo Island have the kind of flavor that requires little adornment. The marron (freshwater crayfish) are even sweeter than lobster and shrimp, while the yabbies (another kind of crayfish) are the ultimate fix for any seafood lover.
I returned home primed to cook. First, I matched the chicken with feta for a fresh summer salad. Another time, I steamed boneless chicken breasts with lime and black pepper. The yabby, with a squeeze of lemon, became a modern bruschetta; the marron was the perfect partner for an Asian rice salad. And I mixed honey with ricotta and spread it on toast for breakfast. The honey, Poulos told me, came from bees that can be traced back to hives imported in 1881 from the Italian province of Liguria--a noble history that transforms my breakfasts into real ceremonies.