Matbucha or cooked tomato salad is a Moroccan popular dish in Israel. The tomatoes are cooked slowly with garlic and green hot peppers until it resembles a jam. A slightly sweet, acidic, spicy and smoky jam. In my family, we always discuss and criticize our matbucha or others, it’s too spicy, it’s not spicy enough, the color is too dark, the tomatoes were not ripe enough, hers isn’t delicate, he didn’t burn the peppers properly, she didn’t cook it long enough, it’s too oily, too generous with the spices. Good matbucha is a matbuch that got lots of time and attention.
A few things before you start:
- A good matbucha takes at least 90 minutes to cook with supervision.
- Matbucha is made with ripe plum tomatoes – it wouldn’t be delicious if the tomatoes aren’t ripe. I use canned plum tomatoes and it comes out almost as good but the color of the matbucha is darker, which my mother disapproves.
- Burning the peppers is optional but when you do, the matbucha gets a good smoky flavor.
- Don’t skip the garlic, it has a big roll in the flavor.
- My mother makes it with canola oil which has a neutral flavor as opposed to olive oil. I make it with extra-virgin olive oil and it comes out delicious.
- It is most delicious eaten over fresh homemade bread or challah. Growing up in a Jewish Moroccan home we ate matbucha every week, during the weekend with our Friday noon’s sandwich, Shabbat dinner and Saturday for lunch before hamin. If we have leftovers, which is rare, we make shakshuka with it on Sunday.
Matbucha (Moroccan Slow-Cooked Tomato salad)
- 2 large cans of whole plum tomatoes – diced is okay but not crushed or 2 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, peeled
- 8 medium size garlic cloves – peeled
- 2 green hot chili peppers – for mild spiciness add only 1
- 1 tablespoons sweet paprika
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ cup olive oil or canola oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Put the oil, paprika and turmeric in a measuring cup or jar and mix to combine. Set aside.
- Drain the tomatoes and put them in a heavy bottom pot (If you’re using fresh tomatoes, peel them then cut them in half and squeeze out their juice, before you put them in the pot). Add the garlic and bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat to medium and continue to cook until all the liquid evaporates, about 20 – 30 minute, stirring occasionally. Press the tomatoes with a wooden spoon to squeeze out their juice.
- Meanwhile burn the peppers on the burner over high heat, flipping them occasionally to make sure that their skin is burned. Let them cool for 5 minutes, then peel their skin and discard. You should wear latex gloves when you handle the spicy peppers (you can get burns from the seeds). Trim the tops and discard. Cut the peppers lengthwise and remove the seeds (don’t rinse the peppers in water, you can wipe the inside with a paper towel). Cut the peppers into strips and add to the tomatoes.
- Using a potato masher, mash the tomatoes every now and then. When most of the liquid is gone, lower the heat to low and continue to mash every now and then.
- When all the liquid is gone pour the oil mixture in. Add sugar and salt, and mix. Simmer uncovered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent the tomatoes from scorching. Cook until the texture resembles a jam. Taste and add salt if necessary.