Romanian vegetable spread – dip, traditional recipe. “Zacusca”.
In this article there are two of my favourite recipes for this Romanian vegetable spread made with aubergines, onions and peppers. For the first recipe, the vegetables are kept raw (apart from the aubergine that needs to be roasted). For the second, the vegetables are roasted on the open flame (apart from the onions, that don’t need it).
There are 1,001 variations of this Romanian vegetable spread around the country (with white beans, with mushrooms and other) and around the world, but these are the recipes I used, and the friends and family love them both.
For the raw ingredients recipe:
- 1,2kg aubergines - will yield approx 600g after roasting, peeling and draining
- 750g sweet red long peppers (kapia)
- 650g onions
- 250g tomato passata (mixed with 250ml water)
- 250ml vegetable or sunflower oil
- 10g of salt (use to taste)
- 5d black pepper (use to taste)
- 3 bay leaves (optional)
- These are the exact quantities I've used, weighted.
Roast the aubergines (I prefer open flame, but an oven will do as well) until the skin is well charred on all sides, and the flesh seems soft to touch. Peel whist quite hot, spread them on a wooden kitchen board and leave to drain (at an angle) for a couple of hours.
In a food processor, chop the onions quite small. Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed pan, preferably a cast iron pan, and add the onions. Soften for a few minutes until they lose their harsh edge, 7-8-10 minutes. Follow with the chopped peppers (again quite small), and sweat again for a few minutes.
Add the bay leaves (if used) and tomato passata mixed with water, bring to a low simmer on the lowest flame setting. Once drained, puree the roasted aubergines and add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer covered (mixing the mixture often) on a very low heat for about one hour. The consistency of the spread must resemble jam.
Transfer the vegetable spread into sterilised jars. Heat the oven to 100-110C. Place the jars into a tray and half fill the tray with water. Place in the oven for one hour, then turn the oven off and let the jars completely cool inside.
This recipe will yield approx 2,5kg and will serve 40 people at 60g per portion. Will keep in the fridge for months (mine has at least 7 months now) and also outdoor in a shed or garage for at least 2 weeks in the winter-spring.
For the roasted ingredients recipe:
- 600g aubergines – will yield 300g after roasting, peeling and draining
- 500g sweet red long peppers – will yield 250g after roasting and peeling
- 700g yellow peppers – will yield 440g after roasting and peeling
- 350g onions
- 250ml tomato passata mixed with 250ml water
- 150ml vegetable or sunflower oil
- 10g salt (more or less to taste)
- 1g black pepper (more or less to taste)
- 2-3 bay leaves (optional)
- 10g smoked paprika (optional)
The procedure is the same here, cook the onions add the peppers, tomato passata and then the aubergines. Season to taste, add the bay leaves and the smoked paprika (not really necessary but it gives the spread a deeper flavour). Simmer covered, stirring quite often for about one hour.
These quantities will yield approx 1,4kg of finished product, which is about 23 portions. It is more expensive to produce than the previous recipe, and I can say that from the people that have tried it, the two were equal in preferences.
Other popular recipes in this category:
- Best Romanian chicken paprikash with flour dumplings.
- Traditional cabbage rolls (sarmale) stuffed with minced pork and smoked meats.
- Chicken and noodles soup.