Born in West Africa, Malicka Anjorin grew up holding family and food close to her heart. She spent a wealth of her time with both immediate and extended kin, developing an appreciation for her Beninese heritage. Now, the content creator shares her recipes and stories @theblvckgourmet, encouraging others to explore their cultures through food while sharing tips for prep and success. (Hint: Start cooking those beans waaay earlier than you think!)
How does your heritage or culture influence your home cooking?
The food I cook is always inspired by my Beninese heritage because thatʼs what I know. Even when trying recipes from other cultures, I add my own twist to it, inspired by my heritage.
How do you celebrate Eid? What does Eid represent and mean to you?
Since moving to the States, celebrating Eid has been kept pretty simple. This question actually takes me back to my childhood and how we celebrated back home in Benin. Every Eid, my parents bought my siblings and I new fabric for outfits to wear to the mosque on Eid day. We always looked forward to seeing what color our fabric was going to be that year, and my aunt would help my sister and I tie our headwraps, which added a beautiful touch to our outfits. After the mosque, we all met at my auntʼs with my dadʼs side of the family. It was a great opportunity to connect and spend time with my cousins. Later in the afternoon, we would go visit my grandmother and spend time with my momʼs family. We would dance, and the aunts, uncles, and grandparents would give us money. It was awesome! Eid marks the conclusion of an important month for Muslims all over the world, and it is a special blessing to witness it. For me, Eid is a chance to reconnect with my faith and reflect on the good deeds accomplished during the month of Ramadan — which I always hope to continue even after the fast. Eid is also a reminder for me to continue helping and supporting the needy.
Is there a story or favorite memory behind the recipe youʼre making today?
My favorite memory of this dish — not necessarily the recipe, because I learned the recipe pretty recently — is eating it every Monday while I was in secondary school. I spent a lot of time with my momʼs sister, who lived close by. On school breaks, I spent time at her place, and every Monday was cassoulet day. I eventually learned the recipe from my mom via video calls after I moved to the States. I am proud to say that my cassoulet tastes almost as delicious as hers. She still makes the best!
What are some of your other favorite dishes?
One of my all-time favorite dishes is okra soup and cassava fufu, another recipe I learned from my mom. Other go-to recipes would be fried plantains or yams, sorghum/millet porridge, and a dish we call Attieke in West Africa which is a type of steamed cassava couscous.
Do you have any memorable or funny kitchen fails or stories involving cooking your recipe?
Absolutely. When I first started making cassoulet, I didnʼt realize cooking the beans took so long. I would start the process very excited to eat the final dish, but it took me almost the entire day to make; so much so that by the time I was done cooking, I wasnʼt hungry anymore. I invited friends over to eat cassoulet once, and they ended up ordering pizza because it took me forever to finish making it. They all made fun of me, but we enjoyed it very much later that night.
Do you have any tips/tricks or advice for anyone who would like to recreate your recipe?
My advice would definitely be to cook the beans the day before. Cooking the beans is 80% of the process, so getting it out of the way the day before you plan on making cassoulet saves you so much time. Also, the more onions and veggies, the better! Lastly, donʼt be shy with the seasoning of your meat. It makes the base for the dish.
YOU NEED8 cups cooked navy beans or other small white beans (obtained from 2.5 cups dried white beans)
3 lbs. lamb, cleaned
1 tbsp. of green marinade (here, made with fresh ingredients: onions, parsley, green bell pepper, garlic, ginger, and green onions)
2 tbsp. 3 spices seasoning (here, mix of dried ingredients: black pepper, cumin, and bay leaves)
1 tsp. white pepper
1 tbsp. all purpose seasoning
1 tsp. salt, or as needed, for the meat and for the cassoulet)
1/3 cup olive oil
3 large onions, sliced
2 green onions, chopped
6 cups of water, or as needed
2 baking potatoes, cut in medium pieces
2 large carrots, cut in medium pieces
4 sausages, cut in medium pieces each
Season the cleaned meat with salt, green marinade, 3 spices seasoning, all-purpose seasoning, and white pepper. Allow to penetrate for about 2 hours in the fridge.
Place your Perfect Pot over medium heat. Add the oil and the seasoned meat. Sauté for 10 – 15 minutes depending on the size of the lamb pieces. Stir occasionally.
Add in the onions and green onions. Sauté for another 15 – 20 minutes to soften the onions almost completely. Stir occasionally.
Add in the cooked beans and 6 cups of water. Place the lid on your Perfect Pot and bring to a boil.
Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, covered, while stirring occasionally to avoid sticking at the bottom
After 30 minutes, add the carrots, sausage, and potatoes into your Perfect Pot. Adjust seasoning and/or add 2 additional cups of water, if needed.
Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are cooked.
Remove your Perfect Pot from the heat, serve, and enjoy.