Matbucha is a cooked salad of tomatoes and capsicums (peppers) that originally came from the Moroccan Jewish community, and is also sometimes known by its French name, Salade Cuite, French being a major language in Morocco. Much like the Green Yemeni Chilli Sauce, Zhug, made its way to Israel with immigrating Jews, Matbucha, our tomato and pepper salad was also carried over to Israel and North America when many Jews left in the 1950s. It has become very much a part of the Israeli culinary culture.
My first taste of matbucha was at a Shabbat dinner in Tel Aviv, at the home of a colleague. It was so absolutely delicious, a combination of soft stewed tomatoes and grilled peppers, cooked until soft, with a just a touch of heat. I remember having to remind myself to practise some restraint, it was so good, it wasn’t easy not to appear greedy! After all, there were lots of other delicious salads and dips on the table too. And gefilte fish, don’t forget gefilte fish – one of my favourites until today!
Ready made matbucha is easily found in the chillers in shops in Israel and I’m told that you can also find it easily in kosher shops in the US, right next to other dips like hummus and guacamole. But, you’ve heard me say this before, nothing beats homemade. And it really is a super easy recipe to make and best of all, can be made up to 2 days ahead and kept in the fridge and served chilled. Which makes it perfect for Shabbat. And Ramadan. This is a multicultural blog, after all.
As you may know, I’ve been to Morocco a number of times. And I was pleasantly surprised to find matbucha not as uncommon as I might have thought, thinking that it might have been an old forgotten recipe. And best of all, it tasted just like the ones I had in Israel. My recipe here belongs to Nadia’s aunt, Nadia being the colleague mentioned above. I’ve made a few changes to it over the years: I’ve dramatically reduced the amount of olive oil used, I use 3 different coloured capsicums (peppers), as opposed to just green and I’ve added balsamic vinegar, which tomatoes absolutely adore, and which, to me, deepens the final flavour. You can, if you like, use just green peppers, that’s completely up to you.
We grill the peppers before we use them, giving the final dish a sweet intensity. Grilling peppers is a quick 20 minute process, that can also be made the day before. However, if you feel like cheating on that end, go ahead and buy your grilled peppers, whether in tubs in the fridge section or in jars in the Italian antipasto aisle of supermarkets. Or get them from a delicatessen.
I love matbucha and always make a huge portion to keep in the fridge. I serve it as a starter with some bread, as a canapé topping and as a dip during barbecue season. It goes amazingly as an accompaniment with fish and any kind of meat, warm or cold.
Have you heard of or tried matbucha?
For more Moroccan and Israeli recipes, be sure to head on over to the Middle Eastern and North African Recipes page.
A Final word: don’t be put off by the long total time in preparing this recipe. Much of it is hands off time, and the final result is simply phenomenal!Print
- 2 green capsicums (bell pepper)
- 1 yellow capsicum
- 1 red capsicum
- 2 x 400g (14oz) can of chopped tomatoes
- 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1–2 green chillies, finely chopped
- 3 Tbsp EV olive oil
- 2 Tbsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp balsamic vinegar
Grill/Roast the peppers
- Halve the peppers, then place them skin side up on a tray.
- Place the tray under a medium grill (broiler) and grill for about 15-20 minutes until the skin is charred.
- When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel the skins off and slice them in strips, not too thinly, about 1cm (roughly 1/2 inch wide).
- Traditional advice is to place the peppers in a bag and seal, to help loosen the skin. I’ve never bothered, nor needed to do this, the skins come off easily enough.
Cooking the Matbucha
- Place the capsicums (peppers), tomatoes, garlic and green chilli in a saucepan and let it all come to boil on medium heat.
- Lower the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, by which time, the mixture would have dried up considerably.
- Add the olive oil, paprika, salt and sugar and stir to mix thoroughly, Continue cooking on the same heat for another 10 minutes, stirring as needed, especially in the last 5 minutes, to stop it from burning, as it will be fairly dry by then.
- Turn the heat off, add the balsamic vinegar, stir and take it off the heat. It will keep in the fridge for 2 days.
- Cuisine: Jewish
- Serving Size: 4 as a starter