One of the biggest stars of Friday night dinner in my house is definitely the Matbucha. My mama makes this tomato and pepper mezze especially for Friday, and by 5pm (after 2–3 hours of cooking) the whole house is filled with an intoxicating peppery-garlicky smell. I wait until my mama is off-guard and sneak a preview with a piece of challah. She uses fresh tomatoes, but in this recipe I’ve swapped them for canned. It works just as well and saves an hour of cooking.
- 5 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 3 red peppers (capsicum), cored, seeds removed, cut into 2 cm square pieces
- 3 Romano peppers (see Note), cored, seeds removed, cut into 2 cm square pieces
- 1–2 red chillies, finely chopped (depending on how hot you like it)
- 3–4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
- ½ tsp toasted and ground cumin seeds
- 400 g (14 oz) can good-quality chopped tomatoes, strained
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- challah bread, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
The secret of success for this mezze is to keep it on a gentle simmer. Heat a large frying pan (the heavier the better) over a medium-low heat. Add the oil, peppers and a pinch of salt, and let them sweat until they collapse. This should take about 35–40 minutes.
Add the chilli and cook for 10 minutes, then add the garlic and cumin and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. At this point your kitchen should be filled with a garlicky aroma, but we’re not there yet, so don’t dip your challah! Add the tomato and gently simmer for about 30 minutes. The colour should become darker and the aroma more intense.
Add the paprika and salt to taste. Simmer for another 10 minutes and adjust the seasoning if necessary. This is a great base for many recipes. You can eat it hot or cold, and it will keep in the fridge, in a sterilised airtight container, for up to a week. Serve with challah.
• Romano peppers are the pointy red ones – if you can’t find them, you can use an additional 3 regular peppers (capsicum).
• Use matbucha to make shakshuka.