Matbucha is an incredibly rich condiment that is indispensable on the Moroccan-Jewish mezze table.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Table of contents
What is Matbucha?
Also known as Salade Cuite (cuite = cooked) to French speaking communities in the Maghreb, matbucha is a slow cooked tomato based condiment that can be used in so many delicious ways.
It’s a very easy recipe to cook up, and if you make a large batch and bottle it up, can be enjoyed a long time after.
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!
s 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.
How to pronounce Matbucha?
The first two syllables are easy enough, it’s the last that requires a little practice.
Mat – boo – kha
The ch in the final syllable is pronounced in the same way that you would pronounce them in the name of the German composer, Bach. So not a straight h. Not ha, but kha.
The origin of matbucha can be traced back to around the late 18th century, when tomatoes were introduced to North Africa by the Brits.
Much like their Italian counterparts, cooks in North Africa started cooking down the bountiful harvest in order to preserve the tomatoes. Salade cuite was the result, served up as a cooked salad.
Sometime in the middle of the 20th century, immigrating Jews from the region took the recipe back to their new home in Israel. Each family had its own version, resulting in the variety we have today, some hot, some with lots of spices, some very basic, but all of them, glorious in their own right!
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.
How to Cook Matbucha?
Firstly, let me tell you that no two matbucha recipes are the same. Every family is going to have its own version of this much loved maghrebi recipe.
It’s still an ever-present condiment in Morocco and you will find it served throughout the country. And each eatery will have its own version. It is one of my must-have sides when I’m Morocco, which used to be very often.
The traditional salade cuite was fairly spicy as the fresh tomatoes were cooked down alongside green chillies (peppers). This is how I like to make mine, with a handful of whatever green chillies I happen to have in hand. And since I grow so many varieties every summer, there’s always a wonderful choice!
All you really need to cook matbucha is:
- tomatoes (fresh when in season, canned, otherwise)
- green chillies (or bell peppers for a milder version)
- olive oil
Everything else is optional. So on top of the ingredients mentioned above, you can have flavourings like:
- smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
- fresh herbs
- even preserved lemons for a tangier depth
- sundried tomato paste (this is my secret ingredient for many tomato based recipes)
In my recipe here, I’ve given a combination of green chillies and 1 red capsicum (bell pepper). You can use red or green, it doesn’t matter. When I make a big batch, I use both colours, alongside the chillies.
You can reduce the number of chillies if you like. Or use mild varieties.
How to Serve Matbucha?
You can serve or use matbucha in so many different ways:
- as part of a mezze or tapa spread, this will be as a dip or condiment
- pasta sauce
- to liven up mayo (I pimp mayo up with just about anything!)
- sandwich spread, burger sauce
- pizza sauce
- make shakshuka
- to enrich curries and stews
- it makes a fantastic tagine base
- canapé topping (including devilled eggs)
- to jazz up omelettes
And I’m sure in so many other ways.
How to Store
As your matbucha is made primarily with tomatoes, it is fairly acidic. This makes it an ideal candidate for long term storage. Place in sterilised jars, and give them a water bath for 15 minutes. Leave to cool and then store in a dark place.
The jars will be perfectly fine for up to a year. If you need more information on how to give your salade cuite a water bath, drop me a comment.
If not given a water bath, matbucha can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or frozen.
Place your finished product in a clean jar, top with a layer of olive oil and cover tightly. You can then use however much you want. Top up with oil as necessary.
The layer of oil helps to keep out air, and therefore, prolong the life of your salade cuite.
I like to use little plastic pudding basins for this. I can then freeze exactly the amount I think I will need, leaving a little space at the top for expansion.
To use, just heat up in the microwave or on the stove top, adding a little water to the mix.
Ok then, shall we get in the kitchen?
More Old Jewish Recipes
If you enjoy the recipe, drop me a comment and let me know. And if you are feeling like a star, don’t forget that 5-star rating! Thank you!
If you make this recipe, post it on Instagram and tag me @azlinbloor.
Matbucha (aka Salade Cuite, a Moroccan-Jewish Recipe)
- 2 green capsicums bell pepper
- 10 green chillies
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 400g can of chopped tomatoes or about 1 kg fresh (2.2 lb)
- 2 Tbsp EV olive oil
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 Tbsp sundried tomato paste
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp balsamic vinegar
Grill/Roast the peppers
Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F/180°Fan). Halve the bell peppers, get rid of all the seeds and white bits. Then place them skin side up on a tray. Add the chillies, whole to the tray. This is my preferred method, as we don't need to flip them.
Place the tray in the oven to roast the chillies and peppers. The chillies will be done at around the 8-10 minute mark. Just get them out using kitchen tongs. Leave the peppers until the 20 minutes are up. You could also grill (broil) the peppers. Place the tray under a medium grill (broiler) and grill for 10 – 15 minutes. You will have to flip them over.
Peeling and Chopping
While the chillies and peppers are cooling down, finely chop the garlic or crush them with a garlic crusher.
When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel the skin off. 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.
Then dice them (chop them up into little cubes).
Using your knife, hold down gently on the body of the roasted chillies and using your other hand, pull off the chilli stems. Then roughly chop them up. You could lose the seeds if you like, but I prefer to leave them in. Don't forget to use gloves when handling hot chillies.
Cooking the Matbucha
Place the peppers, chillies, tomatoes and garlic 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, sundried tomato paste, salt and sugar and stir to mix thoroughly, Continue cooking on the same heat for another 20 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 and stir to mix well. Matbucha can be enjoyed hot or at room temperature. Some even have it cold. Store as discussed in the post above.