FvF Cooks with Volker Eichenhofer: Team Lunch
A seasonal feast fit for friends, Berlin
Journal > FvF Cooks with Volker Eichenhofer: Team Lunc…

Volker Eichenhofer says he likes to cook “proper food.” Maybe it’s the Bavarian in him that craves meat and potatoes in a meal, he laughshis grandmother taught him well.

An established fashion photographer, Volker’s foray into cooking has been steadily simmering the last five years—one food blog, periodical ‘supper clubs’ and a bicycle lunch-delivery service “Volksspeisung” latercomes ve. food, a weekly catering service that made its way to the FvF Apartment to serve a veritable feast.

Volker’s professional identities live under their own guises of Volker Eichenhofer Photography and v.e cooks, a split he says perhaps confuses the German tendency towards ‘Schubladendenken’ (literally, ‘drawer thinking’) —or just as idiomatically in English—pigeonholing. He admits he’s never really thought about the balancing of his two professional worlds, “It’s just a question of planning,” says Volker breezily. Stressing the importance of starting with your mis en place as he flits around the kitchen, it’s clear this one-man-show is a well oiled machine. As we talk, alarms go off—ambient lilts, no shrill ringing pierces the organized calm of the workspace—signalling the next stage in his multitasking; a six-hour slow roasted cut of organic beef in brown ale wafts its way out of the oven to be replaced by woody king oyster mushrooms strewn with chives.

Volker’s background in art direction is at home in the kitchen. As he speaks about the spontaneity of the culinary medium and improvising compositions in the final moments, he sets aside coriander roots as potential decoration and explains the addition of beetroot to the pear compote in today’s dessert, as important for hue as for flavor. Unlike photography, “Food is more real,” he says, bringing him directly into contact with his audience, “You can’t hide an expression when you’re tasting food.”

His process is nomadic—before a booking, Volker hires a professional kitchen for a few hours to get underway. Not one for recipe testing, everything first takes shape in his head, informed by a lifelong love of cooking, beginning as a childhood under the expert direction of his grandmother.

Volker’s background in art direction is at home in the kitchen.

His recipe inspiration comes simply from “walking with open eyes” through markets, supermarkets, and his local greengrocer, who always brings him out the best of the season’s offerings. Rather than any particular cuisine (he was recently mystified when a friend said his food was so “Paleo,” unfamiliar with the term) his cooking is defined by harmonizing flavors, hedging show-stealing elements and paying attention to fine seasoning, evident in our produce-rich menu of the day.

Braised Beef with Brown Ale Jus

Ingredients (for 4–6 people)

Jus

  • 1.5 kg beef marrow bones

  • 2 red onions

  • 5 carrots

  • 5 parsnips

  • 1 leek

  • 1 beetroot

  • 3L brown ale (“Malzbier”)

  • 1 tsp dijon mustard

  • Fleur de sel, pepper

Beef

  • 1.5 kg organic beef topside

  • 5 carrots

  • 5 parsnips

  • 3 red onions

  • 1L brown ale

  • Fleur de sel

  • Pepper

  • Thyme

  • Rosemary

Method

Jus

  1. Place marrow bones with some oil in a roasting pan and roast on highest rack at 200°C
  2. Wash the vegetables and chop into large pieces, leaving the onion skin on
  3. Put the vegetables and the bones in a large (oven-safe) pot and roast together with some mustard for a further 5 minutes
  4. Pour in the ale and simmer for 3 hours
  5. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve
  6. Season with pepper and fleur de sel and reduce the sauce for a further 2 hours at very low heat

Beef

  1. Wash and chop vegetables
  2. Season meat with salt and pepper
  3. Heat the oil in a roasting pan, brown meat on all sides, about 10 minutes total
  4. Add the vegetables, ale and some thyme and rosemary to the meat
  5. Cover the pan, place in oven and roast for 6 hours at 80°C
  6. Serve with the jus

Pearl Barley Tabouleh

Ingredients (for 4-6 people)

  • 500g pearl barley

  • 500g red lentils

  • Rapeseed oil

  • Parsley

  • Thai basil

  • Fleur de sel

  • Dates (chopped)

  • Pomegranate seeds

Method

  1. Combine barley and lentils (both cooked) in a large bowl with some oil, the chopped herbs and fleur de sel
  2. Add the chopped dates and pomegranate seeds

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Crispy Onions

Ingredients (for 4–6 people)

Main

  • 4 sweet potatoes

  • Safflower oil

  • Fleur de sel

  • Pepper

  • Garlic

Garnish

  • 1 bunch coriander

  • 2 onions, (finely chopped or blended)

  • 1 cup sunflower seeds

  • Lemon zest

  • 1 bottle of sunflower oil

Method

Main

  1. Chop the sweet potatoes into large cubes and put them on a baking tray
  2. Drizzle with safflower oil, fleur de sel and pepper, add a crushed clove of garlic and mix well
  3. Cook for 2 hours at 80°C

Garnish

  1. Roast the sunflower seeds until lightly browned
  2. Heat the bottle of sunflower oil in a deep pan; add chopped onions and fry until crispy golden brown
  3. Place on a paper towel and allow to cool
  4. Chop the coriander (including stems), mix with the seeds and onions, add lemon zest and scatter over hot sweet potatoes

Mushroom Confit

Ingredients (for 4–6 people)

  • 12 champignons

  • 12 shiitake mushrooms

  • 2–3 king oyster mushrooms

  • 1 bunch of chives

  • 1 bunch of mint

  • Sesame oil

  • Blackberry vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)

  • Fleur de sel

Method

  1. Place mushrooms on a baking tray (champignons and shiitake whole; king oyster cut into thick slices)
  2. Add some sesame oil and scatter whole chive sprigs on top
  3. Confit the mushrooms for 40 minutes at the bottom of the oven at 70°C
  4. Put the mushrooms and their juices in a bowl, add chopped mint, blackberry vinegar and fleur de sel and serve warm

Fermented Cabbage “German Kimchi”

Ingredients (for 4–6 people)

  • 1 sweetheart cabbage

  • 1 tsp brown sugar

  • Herb vinegar

  • Cranberries

  • Black mustard seeds

  • Fleur de sel

Method

  1. Dice the cabbage and place in a large non-plastic bowl
  2. Add sugar and vinegar and squeeze until the cabbage becomes soft and loses liquid (will take approx. 5–10 minutes)
  3. Cover the bowl, leave for at least three days and squeeze contents from time to time
  4. Serve the cabbage with cranberries, mustard seeds and fleur de sel

Dessert: NY Cheesecake Panna Cotta with Pear and Beetroot Compote

Ingredients (for 4-6 people)

Pear and Beetroot Compote

  • 1 beetroot

  • 3 pears

  • 1 tsp muscovado sugar

  • Lemon zest

  • 1 cinnamon quill

  • 1 vanilla pod

  • 1 star anise

NY Cheesecake Panna Cotta

  • 100g butter

  • 50g brown sugar

  • Pinch of salt

  • 150g wholemeal flour

  • Sesame seeds

Panna Cotta

  • 350 ml cream

  • 150 gr cream cheese

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

  • 3g agar agar

  • 1 vanilla pod

Sesame Brittle

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

  • 1 tbsp sesame

  • Fleur de sel

Method

Pear and Beetroot Compote

  1. Cook the beetroot, removing skin afterwards
  2. Chop the pear and beetroot into small cubes
  3. Place in a pot and simmer with spices and sugar for 5 minutes

Crumble Base

  1. Melt butter and add sesame seeds until lightly toasted
  2. Combine sugar, salt and flour and blend together until crumbly
  3. Bake for 10–15 min at 200°C
  4. After the crumble has cooled, put in a freezer bag and crush with a with a rolling pin
  5. Fill into ramekins

Panna Cotta

  1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and heat them, stirring constantly
  2. Remove from heat, pour into a bowl place in the fridge
  3. As the mixture starts to firm as it cools, pour into individual serving ramekin
  4. Leave in fridge for a further 2 hours

Sesame Brittle

  1. Heat sugar
  2. Mix in sesame and a pinch of salt
  3. Pour mixture onto a marble board to cool down
  4. When cooled, break into pieces and use as decoration

A credit to his seamless operation, Volker cheerily emerges from the FvF Apartment kitchen with a showcase as pleasing to the eye as to the palate: six-hour slow braised beef in brown ale, a mushroom confit, roasted sweet potatoes with crispy fried onions, a kaleidoscopic grain and lentil salad and umami perfected in his fermented cabbage dish, a kind of “German Kimchi” as he calls it. Dishes are passed around, each of us eager to fill our plates. In due course, a New York cheesecake–panna cotta hybrid and a vibrant pear and beetroot compote arrive at the table. No one credibly “left room for dessert,” but somehow, everyone finds space.

Thank you, Volker, for making this delicious team lunch possible, and for sharing your recipes with us.

Keep up with Volker’s ve.food culinary pursuits and his photography. Looking for more culinary inspiration? Try your hand at other delicious recipes on FvF Cooks.

Photography: Robert Rieger
Text: Ruby Goss