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Belgium on a plate: Top Brussels chef Igor Rosi shares a seasonal recipe

20:40 12/08/2018

Igor Rosi is on a mission to deliver the authentic taste of Italy for diners at the Hotel Amigo Bocconi restaurant. The Tuscan chef has been heading the 18-strong kitchen at the renowned Brussels address for the past two years, with a winning combination of Italian classics and contemporary Mediterranean cuisine.

“It’s all about quality ingredients, and sometimes simpler is better,” says Rosi as he serves up risotto with pumpkin and burrata, a plate of sunshine on a cool spring day, finely balanced in texture and flavours. A glass of Sicilian white perfectly offsets the richer notes.

“Simple produce is the signature of Italian cuisine, and simple dishes are more of an art, like spaghetti al pomodoro,” he says. Rosi loves vegetables and is inspired as much by his grandmother’s cooking as his professional travels; he’s cooked in fine dining establishments in Paris, Dubai, the US, Algeria and Crete as well as Italy. Now Brussels is home, and Rosi is happy to source local ingredients, praising butchers like Dierendonk and regional specialities such as Brussels sprouts and grey shrimps.

Under the supervision of chef Fulvio Pierangelini, the group’s food director, the menu changes every three months, although classics such as traditional lasagne (“We serve around 30 a day”) and tiramisu are staples, as is the fresh pasta made morning and evening by the all-Italian kitchen staff. Otherwise, seasonal produce dominates, ensuring fresh flavours and colours.

The all-Italian experience extends to the dining room’s decor and tableware. Refurbished a year ago, the interior is clean and refined, ignoring the current restaurant vogue for neutral and natural design. Pops of colour and ceramic wall art by Italian artist Piero Fornasetti inject light and warmth. Part of the luxury family-run Rocco Forte Group (though a separate entity), its design bears the signature of its perfectionist design director, Olga Polizzi.

Hotel Amigo

The Hotel Amigo is already a timeless experience with its imposing corner situation, a stone’s throw from the Grand’Place. Dating from medieval times, it was built by a wealthy merchant before being taken over by the city and used as a prison. It was transformed into a hotel in 1957 in response to the urgent need for accommodation as Brussels prepared to host the World Expo in 1958. The Rocco Forte family bought it and restored it, opening in 2002.

In the dining room and on theterrace, the final stragglers are rising from lunch and Rosi needs to return to the kitchen. I can’t resist asking if the atmosphere in his largely Sicilian kitchen ever becomes overly heated. “I may shout occasionally, but there’s always a smile afterwards,” he admits.

His take on Belgian favourite Dover sole, accompanied by seasonal vegetables, sings with the colours of Italy. If the presentation seems a bit fussy, simply serve to your own liking. Bon appetit!

Fillet of sole with asparagus & green peas
Serves two as a starter or light lunch

  • 1 Dover sole (approx 500g, filleted)
  • 6 green asparagus spears (trimmed)
  • 230g green peas
  • Mint leaves
  • Basil leaves
  • Fresh coriander
  • Fennel fronds
  • 1 bunch spring onions
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • Olive oil (Rosi recommends Fulvio Pierangelini’s)
  • Salted butter
  • Garlic
  • Maldon salt
  • Pepper
  • Sugar

Fillet of sole

Cook the asparagus spears in boiling salted water for two minutes. Remove and set aside, then cook the peas for seven minutes in the same water. Mix the cooked peas, basil and mint and place in a Thermomix for 10 minutes at 72°.

Add the butter, olive oil, salt and pepper to the mixture and adjust the consistency with water to give a smooth but firm cream. Remove and place to one side.

Trim the spring onions, season with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of sugar and roast in the oven for five to 10 minutes at 200° until caramelised.

Quickly pan fry the fish on both sides in butter with a clove of garlic. For the salad, slice the asparagus spears diagonally (reserve two stalks for decoration) and mix them with the fennel fronds, mint, coriander and basil, before seasoning and dressing with oil.

Arrange the salad around the sole fillets and decorate the plate with the spring onions, pomegranate seeds, fennel fronds, sliced asparagus stalks and dots of the green pea cream.

This article first appeared in The Bulletin Summer 2018. Pick up a copy in newsagents today or subscribe now...

Written by Sarah Crew