A winning Kangaroo Island tonic

Australia's third largest island is home to unique regional marron, cheeses, honey and a globally recognised gin made with local ingredients.

Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, is renewed by the lifestyle on Kangaroo island.

It’s our last day on Kangaroo Island and we have free time with which to explore the large island. With the mantra of 'never underestimate how large an island Kangaroo Island is' and 'make sure you are at the airport at 5:30pm', we slide my P Plates on the Audi and I take the wheel. And when I start driving around Kangaroo Island, I keep thinking to myself 'why on earth did I not get my license here?' as we pass the occasional car and the roads are smooth and mostly straight lines. None of this tight reverse parallel parking here!

The ad for Kangaroo Island promises getting close to nature and when you drive around the island what you see above is pretty much what you will see. We never saw any houses, although we did see a line-up of fifteen mail boxes. For those who want to escape to nature, this may be heaven.

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Andermel Marron

Our first stop is the Adermel marron farm which is a fascinating place to visit particularly as we had eaten marron only the night before at the lodge. Marron are only found in Australia and originally came from Western Australia. Fifty years ago, someone brought some marron to Kangaroo Island and they promptly dispersed and populated. Unlike yabbies, they’re a species with a low tolerance to pesticides and the wrong temperature conditions so they’re considered harder than others to grow. They only breed once a year in August and give birth in January.

kangaroo island southern ocean lodge

Marron were so named by the French because of their chestnut brown colour, similar to a chestnut or marron in French. However, there is an incredible version of them that comes in a range of hues from purple to blue as well as pink tinges. Caused by a recessive gene, they call these the albino versions. I couldn’t help but tweet a picture of these beauties. I know some people were recently outed as being paid to tweet things from Kangaroo Island when they failed to disclose that they were paid tweets. At no stage was I paid or offered to be paid to tweet anything.

They harvest 6 tonnes of marron a year and these are sent off to the local market and restaurants as well as overseas to Dubai, Singapore and Malaysia. They are all exported live and they can even send these to Sydney (although sending these to Victoria is problematic). The meat is prized because of the texture. Said to be similar to prawn, it can be less chewy or tough than lobster and Martin, who is showing us around, reminds us that a 3 kilo lobster is 30 years old so the meat is going to be tougher. Here they sell them no more than one year old from 60 grams to 700 grams. Also, marron have a good meat to shell ratio at 43 per cent and they also have some meat in the pincers.

Prices here for the live marron range from $36-$48 and their cafe also sells cooked marron as well as marron meals. The marron salad above is $16 and features a tail of marron on a bed of salad with their own signature dressing. Also part of the marron business is the Two Wheeler creek winery where Mr NQN tries a very nice sauvignon blanc (I couldn’t try it as I was driving).

And they’re great climbers too! Martin tells us that he once found one in the car park!

Our next stop is a short one at Island Dairy where they make four kinds of cheeses: a brine cured feta which is less salty than regular feta, kefalatori, halloumi and cygnet. The cygnet is similar to a parmesan. It starts off as a soft curd cheese and they coat it in salt and mature it for 5 months to produce the cygnet cheese.

There are 1,500 sheep all on the property and we grab ourselves a little snack for the plane ride home. For $9.95 you try three of their four cheese, some slices of their salami, a tiny pot of beetroot relish and a packet of crackers.

Kangaroo Island Spirits

Not far away from Island Pure is King Island Spirits who are a multi award winning gin and vodka distillery that produce their gin using a variety of ingredients including a local juniper berry. On the eve of our visit, they had just won silver medals at the San Francisco spirits show for their Zenzerono (ginger and orange version of a limoncello) and their anisette (aniseed vodka). Their London style gin is award winning and sublime when served with the caviar beads of finger limes...

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