Moroccan matbucha (pronounced mat-boo-ha) is a popular cooked tomato salad made from summer tomatoes, red peppers, garlic, spices, and sometimes, eggplant. This rendition is for the busy home cook, 30 minutes on the stove, without skimping on that rich and jammy flavour.
🍅 Matbucha is a cooked salad or sauce made from ripe summer vegetables – juicy heirloom tomatoes, sweet red bell peppers, and sometimes, glossy dark aubergine. Spices such as garlic, chili and paprika are a must. 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.
Matbucha is also known as matbukha – Arabic for ‘cooked’, or salade cuite in French. This dish really is a celebration of summer tomatoes. It can be prepared more akin to a sauce, or slightly thicker like a dip.
Traditionally, matbucha is cooked low and slow, and often involves blackening the peppers, chilies and eggplant first, concentrating the flavour. It’s a labour of love, and patience!
My matbucha recipe is suited for the busy home cook, taking just a few shortcuts, without skimping on flavour. Eat it by the spoonful, or slather it on bread, either way, you won’t be disappointed.
Matbucha non-negotiables include –
- Fresh or canned tomatoes
- Red bell peppers
- Onions or shallots
- Paprika powder, chili flakes, garlic, sugar and sea salt
- Olive oil
I’ve included eggplant as I love the flavour.
Traditionally, making matbucha is a lengthy process. When my Nana would prepare it, she would stand at the kitchen bench for hours, coring, scoring, boiling, cooling, peeling, chopping and finally slow cooking homegrown tomatoes with all the other ingredients.
It takes quite a mass of them in order to yield a modest amount of matbucha sauce this way!
For this reason, I’ve chosen canned, and have reduced the cooking time to make it a practical mid-week affair.
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. 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.
🌶How to make matbucha
Ok let’s get this matbucha underway!
Step one. Peel the eggplant and cut it into 1cm cubes like the image below. De-seed the bell peppers and cut them into smaller pieces also.
Step two. Add olive oil to a heavy-bottomed large saucepan to disperse the heat evenly. Add diced shallots, 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.
Step three. Add spices, cooking them for a few minutes to intensify the flavour – sliced garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, paprika.
Step four. Add a can of crushed and sieved tomatoes – along with a teaspoon of coarse sea salt, coconut sugar and 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.
Step five. 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.
Full permission to devour spoonfuls of matbucha as is!
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 matbucha 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.
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- 1/3 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 matbucha 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 matbucha 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