Aizle’s Chef Patron Stuart Ralston talks us through his love of seasonal produce, Japanese cuisine, and winning TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Award
How did you get started in the kitchen?
I grew up in a family of chefs, my Mum, my Dad and my brother are all chefs. When I was younger my parents owned a hotel in London and I started working for my Dad when I was 13. I started off as a dishwasher and I just never left the kitchen.
Can you briefly explain Aizle’s tasting menu concept to our readers?
The whole menu is built to showcase seasonal ingredients at their best. The menu changes seasonally so that we can use local ingredients when we can and when it’s best to. Dinner is six courses, but we also have a bread course and some snacks to start the meal so it ends up being more than that. Having the ingredients listed as a harvest rather than as part of a conventional menu I think really shows off the best of the season, and it makes the dinner experience a little special not knowing exactly how those ingredients will be arranged on your plate.
How do you choose the harvest for each menu?
We work with lots of small producers and they tell us what’s best and what ingredients are coming in. They’ll show us what they have to offer and we see what takes our fancy and build the menu from there. We’re always looking out for new companies and new producers to work with so the menu is constantly evolving.
As TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Award winner, what do you think makes for a great dining experience?
The most important thing is for everyone who comes through our door to feel special and made to feel welcome. We don’t want people to be intimidated by the menu or the restaurant, so we take the pomp out of fine dining so that everyone can relax and enjoy their experience with us.
Where do you find inspiration?
The most important thing when developing a new dish is to improve upon what we’re currently serving. Each dish is designed to showcase the ingredients at the height of their seasonality and really let their flavours come through. My inspiration mainly comes from France and Japan. France has the oldest, most classic cuisine and I think we can learn a lot from the flavours and techniques it uses. And Japan because I love the flavour of Japanese food. I’ve never been, but I’m saving up to visit next year and I’m really looking forward to that.
What kitchen advice do you have for amateur chefs?
Keep your food simple and your knives sharp.
Stuart Ralston is the Chef Patron at Aizle in Edinburgh. www.aizle.co.uk
Stuart Ralston’s Monkfish, Purple Sprouting Broccoli & Green Sauce
- 100g monkfish tail
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp pomace oil
- 2 sprigs lemon thyme
- 1/2 lemon
- For the broccoli
- 2-3 long stems of purple sprouting broccoli
- Olive oil
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- For the green sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 20g capers
- 6 anchovy fillets
- 100g flat leaf parsley
- 100g spinach
- 50g mint
- 8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
For the sauce, quickly blanch the parsley, spinach and mint in boiling water, then plunge into a bowl of iced water to refresh.
Blend all of the sauce ingredients until you get a pesto-like consistency. Set aside until ready to serve.
Put a pot of salted water on to boil then start the fish.
Heat a pan and add oil and butter. Once the butter starts to brown and caramelise, add your monkfish. Baste the fish for three minutes on each side. Remove from the heat and rest.
While the fish rests, cook the broccoli in the boiling water for three minutes until tender. Drain and season with salt, lemon juice, and a little olive oil.
To serve, place the rested fish on a warm plate, scatter broccoli along the side, and dot with the green sauce.