Matbucha - a rich and delicious sauce made with bell peppers and eggplant, spiced with garlic, chilli and paprika. 30 minutes cooking time - just add pita bread!
Matbucha is a sauce made from cooked tomatoes and red bell peppers, seasoned with spices such as garlic, chilli and paprika. Some variants also include eggplant. The dish originates from Morocco and parts of North Africa, is widely enjoyed in Israel, and often features on a meze platter as a rich and flavourful appetizer.
Also known as matbukha – Arabic for ‘cooked’, or salade cuite in French.
We have a similar condiment in Croatia known as ajvar, though with less of the sweetness and ground spice, and more acidity due to the addition of vinegar. I adore both.
Moroccan matbucha is ideal on a serving platter with flatbreads or toasted sourdough, and is a wonderful base for other dishes such as tagines, shakshuka and even pasta (just modify the salt content accordingly).
Traditionally, both ajvar and matbucha require the peppers and eggplant to blacken in the oven or over an open flame before preparing the dish. This means all the fiddly faffing involved in peeling and deseeding afterwards. Yes – it’s quite intense!
So, my matbucha recipe breaks the rules a little. I’ve done away with the roasted peppers and condensed the recipe down to 10 minutes prep and 30 over the stove.
👩🍳Why this recipe works
- 30 minutes on the stove and you’re done
- No need to blacken and remove the skins and seeds of the vegetables prior
- The perfect amount of heat, with just a hint of sweetness
- The addition of eggplant helps thicken the dip and add a flavor punch (us Croatians – eggplant in errything!)
- Yields a decent portion (8 serves)
- Ideal to share with guests as a light meal – just add toasted sourdough with fresh basil leaves
🍆Ingredients and benefits
Most of the key matbucha ingredients fall into the nightshade family – bell peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, chili and paprika.
Nightshades contain glycoalkaloids (such as solanine in eggplant), which can cause reactions in very sensitive individuals.
Solanine can be neutralized to some degree by cooking with the addition of salt (Pitchford, 2002). For the rest of us, in moderation, alkaloids in plants from the Solanaceae family have actually be found to confer some protective benefits, with studies suggesting an anti-tumour effect .
The cooked tomatoes will provide the antioxidant lycopene in abundance, while extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) provides phytochemicals with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
By the way, EVOO is, would you believe it, an ideal frying oil! Plenty of myths abound that it shouldn’t be used in high temperatures, so I encourage you to read a few of the articles linked here as newer research has proved that despite its smoke point, it is the safest and most stable oil to cook with.
Ok let’s get this Moroccan dish underway! Start by preparing your ingredients, peel the eggplant and cut it into 1cm cubes like the image below. Remove the stems and seeds from the bell peppers and cut them into smaller pieces also.
Add your olive oil to a heavy-bottomed large saucepan to disperse the heat evenly and avoid burning your food. Add diced shallots, your eggplant and bell peppers, finely sliced chili and a sprinkle of salt.
Cook over low-medium heat for a good 15 minutes until the vegetables have softened greatly, stirring often to avoid them sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Now we add our spices, cooking them for a few minutes to intensify the flavour – sliced garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, paprika.
Time to add the canned tomatoes – along with a good teaspoon of coarse sea salt, coconut sugar (or honey), and a liberal amount of black pepper.
Let this simmer for a further ten minutes, evaporating off the tomato juices and letting the mixture develop a more jam-like consistency.
Remove from the heat, and mash half of the matbucha before serving.
This is the texture you want to aim for – less of a salsa, more of a dip or a thick paste.
Doesn’t that look like the best sandwich spread ever!
This is a great dish to cook the night prior to having guests – the next day, simply toast up some flatbread or sourdough, and top with avocado, chilled matbucha, and a few basil leaves. Impressive and so easy.
Other ideas – use it as a base for this tagine, add to sandwiches, fold through pasta (reduce the salt to half a teaspoon), serve as a side dish, spoon a little bit over cooked vegetables or enjoy it as it.
Store it in the fridge and enjoy within the week.
Yes you can freeze matbucha in air tight containers or a silicon pouch.
Enjoyed this recipe? Leave a comment below, better yet - share a snap with me on instagram @ascensionkitchen. If you're after personalised health and nutrition advice, contact my clinic, I'd be happy to work with you.
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 shallots, or 1 red onion diced
- 1 eggplant
- 2 red bell peppers
- 1 red chili de-seeded, sliced thin
- 1 tablespoon coconut sugar or honey
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- liberal amount black pepper
- 1 400g/14oz can of chopped tomatoes
- Peel the eggplant and cut into 1 cm cubes. Remove the stems and seeds from bell peppers, slice into 1cm strips.
- Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan, medium temperature. Add shallots, eggplant, peppers, sliced chilli and a good sprinkle of salt. Cook for 15 minutes until the vegetables have softened considerably.
- Add garlic, sweet paprika powder and dried chilli flakes, cook a few minutes.
- Add chopped tomatoes, sea salt, coconut sugar, and liberal amounts of black pepper. Cook a further 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the juices have evaporated off and the mixture has thickened.
- Remove from heat, mash half of the mixture for a jam-like texture before serving.
- Use a heavy-bottomed saucepan to evenly distribute the heat and avoid burning
- Both the eggplant and the bell peppers can be blackened over a barbeque or in the oven prior for a smokier flavour - I have omitted this step for the sake of time and truly the end result is spectacular without it
- You can omit the eggplant and use more bell pepper
- Honey can be substituted for the coconut sugar
- Mash with a potato masher or fork to get the ideal consistency
- Serve with flatbread or toasted sourdough
- Store in glass jars in the fridge for up to a week
- Freezes well
- Nutrition panel is an estimate only, and reflects one of eight serves