Olive Magazine

Charcoal food trend: where to eat it and how to cook with it

Published: August 11, 2015 at 2:34 pm

In black burger buns, modern ice creams, inky cocktails and thick, oily black dressings, charcoal is having a moment. Here we reveal where you can eat it, and suggest how to cook it for yourself…

✱ Black food such as squid ink risotto and liquorice jelly has always looked dramatic and charcoal is the newest black. At the top end of the market, chefs kicked-off the trend a while ago; Noma’s René Redzepi served up leek ash, Ferran Adrià played with charcoal oil and Simon Rogan blitzed whole burnt onions, while, on the drinks side, Alex Kratena at London’s Artesian bar added vegetable ash to his Dream within a dream cocktail.


✱ Now you can drink an inked daiquiri at Black Dice; a charcoal old fashioned at Bull in a China Shop (read our review here); eat Tom Seller’s potato, asparagus and coal; salted caramel and charcoal macarons from Super Cute Macarons; and chicken burgers in black brioche buns at Bull In A China Shop. Even Burger King has followed the trend, albeit only in Japan.

Recently, we enjoyed a scoop of charcoal and strawberry ripple ice cream at the OXO Tower Brasserie, made with help from Taywell Ice Creams. Aside from colouring it grey, the charcoal’s purifying properties gave our ice cream a clean, sharp finish, and went well with the accompanying rose water and strawberry flavours.

✱ Running alongside chef-driven ideas is the health trend for using activated charcoal (said to absorb toxins) in drinks such as Botanic Lab’s charcoal water flavoured with yuzu and the Juice Well’s Hunger buster. While homemade charcoal or ash flavour (which could be made from bamboo, vegetables or coconut) is a more playful ingredient with a smoky/bitter flavour, as well as a gritty texture, activated charcoal adds little more than blackness and mouthfeel, a glass of black water or juice is a visual leap of faith.

✱ If you want to try making your own black recipes, buy activated charcoal from health food shops or char your own fruit and veg. Stay away from the BBQ coals though. Don’t eat too much activated charcoal, because as well as removing toxins, it removes nutrients. The simplest way to join the trend is to serve stacks of Fudge’s heart-shaped charcoal crackers on your cheeseboard.

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