Making the Most of Home-grown Blackberries with Stefano Nati, Chef at New Park Manor
Part of the team at our Hampshire property since 2015, Stefano Nati loves working with local produce, from crab to chilis grown in the hotel’s spa garden and blackberries grown in the grounds. We asked him about his culinary background and persuaded him to share the recipe for his take on a classic autumn dish.
• Hi Stefano. Where did you grow up, where did you start your career, and how did you end up making your way to the New Forest?
I was born and grew up in Italy, in the city of Florence. I came to England about two years ago to improve the language, and I was taken on by the hotel in February 2015. My plan was to study English and go back home, but I enjoyed the area so much that I decided to stay and start my career in hospitality.
• What attracted you to working in the hotel industry?
I started working as a waiter in New Park Manor, but after a few weeks I joined the kitchen to help the pastry chef. I fell in love with the job. Working as a chef gives me the chance to do something to make other people happy, and that’s what I like to do most.
• What were your first impressions of New Park Manor? What are your favourite things about the hotel?
I thought it was a really elegant place – quite posh, I would say, and very ‘English’!
• Have you had chance to explore the area in your time off? What are your insider tips for things to do in the New Forest?
The New Forest area is unique, with amazing landscapes, wild ponies and cattle wandering around, tiny villages with very nice pubs and shops. It’s a very healthy environment to live in. My personal tip is: rent a bike and go exploring!
• What are your favourite dishes for guests this autumn?
We decided to introduce something new into the menu – blackberry and apple crumble, as all the bushes of the New Forest are full of gorgeous blackberries. I like to pick them myself – it’s a nice break from the kitchen heat! I also decided to add some rhubarb and ginger to the classic crème brûlée, and I am working on a fig dish that is coming soon.
• Can you share your blackberry crumble recipe with us?
Stefano’s Blackberry and Apple Crumble
300g Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
150g British blackberries
The secret to this crumble is to cook the crumble and filling separately, which prevents the crumble topping from having a soggy bottom. The filling also has a wonderful caramel flavour.
Combine the crumble mixture and spread out on a baking tray. Bake in the oven at 180°C for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and break up and turn the crumble mixture before returning to the oven. Repeat this process several times until the whole mixture is golden brown.
Tip: the crumble can be enhanced by adding ingredients at the end of this process. Fresh grated ginger works really well with the blackberries, or oats, nuts and cornflakes add texture.
On the stove, melt the butter and sugar together while mixing to create a light-brown caramel (wipe the inside of your pan with water before you start to prevent crystallisation). This process should take around 10-15 minutes. Add the apples and stir into the caramel, then cook for a further five minutes. Finally, stir in the blackberries and remove from the heat. Keep tasting the mixture and add more sugar if needed.
In a deep-sided dish, spread out the caramelised filling and cover with the crumble mixture. Place in the oven for 5-10 minutes to heat through. Serve with a generous dollop of clotted cream or piping-hot vanilla custard.
Read more about food and drink at New Park Manor.