The first time I met Stefanie, we chatted the night away! It was an icy cold Berlin evening last winter, both of us had just arrived at a private supper club where a couple girls prepared a wonderful Italian dinner for about twenty people. Stefanie and I started talking and we just didn’t stop for hours. Apart from the general topics women love to discuss when there are no men around (although there where a few but we didn’t pay much attention) we spoke a lot about art and food.
Stefanie describes herself as an artist who fell for the crafts, with a passion that evolved into her profession a few years ago. She is an artistic lace maker and creates the most delicate and beautiful pieces of bobbin lace I’ve ever seen. She uses this handcraft for her topographic artworks but also for her upcoming jewelry label InLace which she’ll be launching in a few months. She showed me some of the handmade pieces she’ll be presenting and I love them. Lace in red, blue and black on silver and golden chains snuggled around the neck, it’s beautiful!
When I asked my lace maker what she would like to cook for me in her kitchen, she answered quickly: Königsberger Klopse! This is her signature dish loved by her family and friends, so much, that they meet regularly to savour them together. It’s a traditional Prussian dish which my grandmother often used to cook as well. The name was given from the city of Königsberg which is today’s Kaliningrad. It’s made of meatballs cooked in a broth which is used afterwards for a creamy sauce mixed with roux, egg yolk and capers. This hearty meal is traditionally served with potatoes, it’s perfect for the cold season. I understand why Stefanie has been called the queen of Königsberger Klopse, it was delicious!
For 3-4 people you need
medium sized potatoes, peeled and cooked, 6-8
For the meatballs
minced meat, mixed beef and pork or veal, 600g / 1.5 pounds
stale white bread, soaked in water for about 10 minutes, 600g / 1.5 pounds
organic egg 1
medium sized onion, chopped, 1
salt and pepper
Squeeze the bread, mix well with the meat, egg, onion, salt and pepper and form 10 meatballs with your wet hands.
For the broth
water 1.5l / 3 pints
medium sized onion, cut in half, 1
bay leaf 1
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
In a large pot, bring the ingredients for the broth to the boil. Carefully put the meatballs into the broth (with a tablespoon) and let them cook for 20 minutes on medium-low heat (simmering). Take the pot off the heat and leave the meatballs in the broth.
For the sauce
butter 50g / 2 ounces
plain flour 4 tablespoons
organic egg yolk 1
freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
capers (preserved in vinegar) 40g / 1.5 ounces (drained weight), plus more to taste
(or salted capers, rinsed, plus apple cider vinegar to taste)
sugar, salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, melt the butter. When the butter is hot, turn down the heat and whisk in the flour. When combined, add some of the broth used to cook the meatballs. Whisk constantly and add more of the broth until the sauce has a liquid but thick consistency, you won’t need all of the broth. Whisk in the egg yolk and add the capers. Season with lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper to taste and add the meatballs to the sauce. Serve with the cooked potatoes.
You spent most of your life in and around Berlin where you grew up. What is typical about the traditional cooking in the area you come from?
As far as I remember, we used to eat hearty comfort food on the weekends in my family, such as hotpots, goulash and chicken fricassee. And of course, it was always prepared fresh by mother. My sister and I always loved to eat and we could eat a lot, that never changed! We were always hungry and my mother tried to keep up with us.
How did you experience the kitchen at home as a child? How important was cooking and baking in your family?
Like I said, my mother used to cook for us on the weekends and I remember that my grandmother was responsible for the baking. She made the best cherry cheesecake but unfortunately, she changed over to frozen cakes from the supermarket. She likes the taste and enjoys the convenience of it. I often try to change her mind which isn’t so easy, unfortunately!
What was the first dish you cooked on your own, what is your first cooking memory?
I made my first cooking experiences in a cooking class at school, the subject was called Arbeitslehre. We tried different recipes and that’s where I leaned to prepare the dish I chose to cook for you.
What are your favourite places to buy and enjoy food in Berlin?
Omoni in Kopenhagener Straße, it’s a Korean restaurant which I can only recommend. And there’s a small organic shop on Weserstraße where I love to go when I’m in the area.
You are an artistic lace maker creating lace as a topographic 3D map but you also work together with designers on crochet fashion. Do you see yourself more as an artist, an artisan or both?
Although my work is artistic in nature, it demands my craft skills to be able to realise my ideas in that artisan field, apart from patience and a huge interest in the art of lace making. Therefore, I would call myself an artist who fell for the crafts. Lace making is my passion, it’s a kind of meditation for me. Maybe that sounds a bit exaggerated but that’s how I feel sometimes while I’m working. I also really enjoy learning new techniques, be it in the fields of knitting, crochet or lace making, it’s quite easy for me as well.
How and when did you find lace making and crochet as the means of your expression?
Crochet was a kind of hobby for me, something I would do on the side. And then, when it brought in some money, it was quite convenient as I was working on my university diploma at the masterclass at that time.
Lace making is different. Once a friend asked me if I could make lace for him and I thought that’s not a bad idea. So that’s what I did for my diploma. It’s very easy to have lace made but I wanted to understand exactly how this wonderful fabric is made by hand. Thanks to the internet, I spotted a group of women who meet every week to make lace together in Berlin-Rudow which is where I learned the art of lace making and I remained true to these women until today.
Are there any other forms of art that influence your work?
I met an artist who works with lace in a similar way to me. Olivia Valentine inspired me a lot and I’m so happy to have met her. Talking to my friends, such as the designer Lena Moritzen influences my work and approach to it in a very positive way as well.
You live and work in Berlin at the moment and have just finished your diploma at the master class of the art college Kunsthochschule Weissensee. What are your upcoming projects for the future?
At the moment, I work half of the week at an embroidery in Berlin-Kreuzberg. I will also launch my own jewelry label at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. It’s called InLace and I focus on handmade necklaces made of bobbin lace.
What did you choose to share on eat in my kitchen and why?
I will cook Königsberger Klopse for you (a Prussian speciality of meatballs in white sauce with capers). We have a dinner tradition in my family, I cook Königsberger Klopse and we all meet at the table together with friends, everybody loves them!
If you could choose one person to cook a meal for you, who and what would it be?
Gebrüder Witzkewitz, they are very good friends of mine and everything that Pascal Witzkewitz cooks tastes fantastic!
You’re going to have ten friends over for a spontaneous dinner, what will be on the table?
(Laughing) I’m the queen of Königsberger Klopse, any more questions?
What was your childhood’s culinary favourite and what is it now?
Buttermilchgetzen (grated potatoes cooked in buttermilk), it has always been my favourite and it still is. It’s a speciality from the Saxony region in Germany.
Do you prefer to cook on your own or together with others?
Both, with friends but I also enjoy it on my own.
Which meals do you prefer, improvised or planned?
Which meal would you never cook again?
I’m sorry, I have no idea!
Thank you Stefanie!