Moroccan Matbucha – Tomato & Pepper Salad
By Lee Jackson ↣ Published on: August 17, 2020
This tangy, sweet Moroccan Matbucha – Tomato & Pepper Salad is a real winner to have in your back pocket when creating meze style feasts. Packed to the brim with flavour, colour and texture!
It's well documented that I love to eat meze small plates from around the Mediterranean and Middle East. This vibrant red tomato salad from Morocco lis one of my all-time favourites. The intensity of fresh, tangy and tart tomato is one thing, and the jam-like texture, designed to cling to anything it touches is another! It's made for dipping and scooping, and if like me you love to do that, you'll be in heaven.
What is Matbucha?
Matbucha is a Jewish dish that originated in the Mahgreb region of North Africa. It's enjoyed in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya. The Arabic dish is known also as مطبوخة - Matbukha. It's also eaten in Israel, brought to the region by Jewish immigrants.
The correct pronunciation for matbucha is "mat-boo-ha"
The dish is comprised of stewed tomatoes, red peppers and chilli to create a reduced, jam-like consistency. It can be served mild or spicy - heat levels can be dialled up to your preference. Matbucha is typically served as a meze dish, as part of a larger offering. But, it can also used as a base for stews and tagines and sometimes becomes the main sauce for the beloved breakfast egg & tomato dish Shakshuka.
Stuff you'll need
- Tomatoes - For tang and colour, tomatoes bring a sweetness to Matbucha.
- Peppers - The sweet earthiness of peppers are the real key to Matbucha. They counterbalance the acidity of the tomatoes perfectly.
- Garlic & Chilli - To enhance the flavour a little more we add garlic and a little spice with fresh chilli. Nothing crazy, a warm heat that follows the sweetness of the peppers and tomato.
- Seasonings - Paprika brings colour and a soft smokiness, sugar tampers the acidity for a more mellow finish and a little salt is essential in rounding off everything.
Step by Step
Matbucha is a bit of a waiting game. To get the most authentic flavour and texture, a low and slow stew is in order - this gives the vegetables plenty of time to reduce in mass and intensify in flavour. It's worth the wait!
- Step 1
Roasting the peppers - This allows a little smokiness to permeate the sauce, and it's a great way to remove the skins, which produces a superior texture. You can roast them on a BBQ grill or in a hot oven. TIP: pop them in a zip-lock bag for 3-4 minutes after roasting. The steam from the peppers will help the skins peel off effortlessly.
- Step 2
Sautee and Stew - Add all the ingredients to a deep sautée pan and fry gently for a few minutes before adding water and stewing gently for 1 1/2 hours. The sauce will reduce to thick consistency, like jam.
- Step 3
Serving - I prefer matbucha at room temperature. Let it cool completely before serving. You can make it in advance, but I urge you to take it out the fridge a good hour before you intend to eat. You'll taste difference, trust.
Pro Tips to make your life easier
- Peeling tomatoes - arguably the most tedious of kitchen tasks, again it's highly recommended for matbucha. I have two options for peeling a tomato.
- Blanching - Make a shallow cut in a cross at the top of the tomato. Boil some water and pop the tomatoes into the water for 30-40 seconds. Remove and the peel SHOULD come off easily. This generally works, but there some stubborn tomatoes that refuse to let their skins go. If this happens, don't sweat it, just leave them on! Life's too short etc.
- Vegetable peeler - Buy slightly under-ripe tomatoes and use a vegetable peeler. This method is my favourite! It's quick and pain-free. This type of tomato suits a Matbucha as it's going to stew for a while so will break down perfectly. A ripe tomato may not peel as well using this method, they can just fall apart in your hands. It's your call.
Serving and storing suggestions
As with so many Mediterranean salads and meze dishes, Matbucha is at its optimum when it's served at room temperature. This salad is so versatile and plays well with literally every flavour combination. Meats, fish and more all sit perfectly together with this salad, so rest assured, whatever you're cooking alongside - it'll be fine. If you just want Matbucha on its own, that's fine too. Bread is a great partner as are some crunchy vegetables like carrots and cucumber.
Refrigerating and freezing
Both are fine. Matbucha will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks and in the freezer 3 months. For both, be sure to let it come up to room temperature before eating. The flavour is so much better.
Ready to get cooking?
The good news is that Matbucha is simple to make at home. All you have to remember is to let it cook gently to allow all the flavours to meld into a fabulous tangy, rich sauce. Enjoy!
More delicious meze recipes
Moroccan Matbucha - Tomato & Pepper Salad
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- Roast the red peppers in a very hot oven, or over a flame or on a hot grill until charred. Remove and cover briefly to allow sweating. Remove and discard the skins and seeds, then chop into small dice.
- In a pan, heat the oil over a medium heat until just hot. Add the garlic and fry briefly before adding the tomatoes, pepper, chilli, salt, sugar and paprika. Stir well, then bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and gently cook for 1hr 15 mins, covered and around 15 minutes with the lid off – the matbucha will reduce and the liquid evaporate. Be careful during final cooking to stir frequently to avoid sticking.
- Remove the matbucha from the heat and let cool to room temperature completely.
- Serve at room temperature as part of a larger mezze feast or simply on its own with some flatbreads. You can refrigerate, but it tastes better if you let it come back to room temperature.
- To make things more luxurious, you can drizzle over and stir in 1/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil (yes, 1/3 cup!) it's delicious.
- Cook matbucha ahead and keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. For the best flavour, let it come to room temperature before eating - you'll notice the difference!
- You can freeze matbucha for up to 3 months. Thaw thoroughly and let it reach room temperature before eating.
- Use Matbucha as a base to soup, stews and even better with eggs like a shakshuka. Just take 1/2 cup and add 1/4 water. Add it to a small frying pan and turn on the heat until just bubbling. Break in a couple of eggs and cover. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the eggs are just cooked and served with flatbreads.
- If you like this Moroccan Matbucha, try the wonderful eggplant version called Zaalouk.
- If you like peppers then you MUST try my Spanish Roasted Red Peppers in all their smoky sweet delight.
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