Mantza (Μάντζα)

This dish is for you folks that like it hot, some heat in a dish. Everyone in my family enjoys hot peppers in a dish but no one as much as a my dad. We’re talking about a man from the Prefecture of Florina, located in the northwestern province of Macedonia. My mom is from a town that neighbored my dad’s town and they both love peppers and especially hot peppers.

We all like hot peppers to some degree in our dishes but no one as much as my father. My mom’s best friend can (and will) eat a handle of long, thin hot peppers like they were  a bag of potato chips! Once at a wedding, I sat beside an uncle (now dearly departed) who would pull out some small red chillis out of his lapel pocket and snip it into pieces and add it to each course served (save for dessert).

I like heat in a dish to add more complexity to a dish, some zing, character and ultimately (yes), some flavour. I’ve never been the type that will add a whole bunch of heat just for the sake of getting that adrenalin rush from eating extremely hot or spicy food. A basket of Buffalo chicken wings without some heat is just plain bland and those same chicken wings coated in “suicide sauce” is just plain overkill.

The dish I am showcasing today is very rustic and to try and make this into a high-rent looking dish that was crafted by a student at Le Cordon Bleu would bastardize the dish’ and pay insult to it’s humble place in the diet of this northern Greek home. We’re talking about a stew of vegetables simmered in grated tomatoes until soft, sweet and spicy from those hot peppers. The whole point of this dish is to break bread and swoop and scoop-up this sauce.

There are many varieties of “Mantza”. My dad’s version would start out with adding olive oil into a pot along with lots of sliced onions, garlic, a mixture of sweet and hot banana peppers, some fried chunks of eggplant and finally, some grate tomatoes. All this simmers until the sauce is think, the onions have broken down and the sauce is thick, sweet and red with the green peppers still evident in the sauce.

My dad’s recipe is a whole pot-full, enjoyed hot or room temperature. This dish will often be brought out as one of the offerings at the table. A serving of Mantza, some homemade crusty bread and a side of Feta all are interchangeable. Mantza can and will be made differently from home to home. This dish appears in the kitchens of Macedonia homes from the area around Naoussa, the towns of Florina and neighboring Kastoria.

In my presentation of this dish today, I’m offering it as an appetizer and one that will appease the hot pepper lover at the table and the shy one who avoids the heat. I’ve also incorporated another fave of my Dad’s, which are fried peppers. There’s a little “splits-splats” going on here but it’s worth the trouble.

To fry peppers, the most important thing to remember is to poke the peppers all over with a fork so as to reduce the prospect of hot oil hitting you. Investing in a screen to cover your skillet is a good suggestion for making this dish. It’s an easy one, one that is rustic, easy and complex at the same time.

Olive oil, fried peppers and eggplant, lots of onions and garlic, grated ripe and sweet tomatoes are simmered until the sauce is thick and sweet. A final touch of dried Greek oregano is added and all that’s left is to serve with bread and Feta cheese. To make this dish special, I fry the peppers and before I re-introduce them back into the sauce, I stuff the peppers with crumbled Feta cheese. Seal-up the peppers, place back into the sauce and the stuffed peppers will continue to soften and the cheese will soften, melt and wait for your fork to cut, open and reveal a softened, creamy Feta that just has to be added to that piece of bread you just dunked into the sauce.

Hot peppers, sweet tomato sauce, briny and tart Feta and pungent Greek oregano, ready to make some Mantza?

Mantza (Μάντζα)

(makes one appetizer serving)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 hot banana peppers, poked a few times with a fork

4-6 sliced of eggplant (about 1/2 inch thick)

1 medium onion, sliced

2-3 cloves of garlic

3-4 ripe tomatoes, passed through your box grater

1 sweet banana pepper, seeded and sliced

approx. 1/2 cup of crumbled Feta cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tsp. of dried Greek oregano

  1. Rinse your hot peppers and pat-dry. Prick with your fork a few times and set aside. Add your olive oil into a skillet over medium heat and then add the peppers (not the one sweet pepper). Fry on both sides until just golden and set aside. Now add your slices of eggplant and fry on both sides until just golden. Reserve.
  2. In the same skillet, add the sliced onions, sliced sweet banana pepper and garlic and saute for a few minutes to soften and sweat. Now add the grated tomato puree and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer. Add some salt and pepper to taste and continue to simmer.
  3. In the meantime, Carefully cut open the stem-end of your fried hot peppers (keep part of the attached so you may re-seal the pepper well) and push the crumbled Feta into the cavities.
  4. When you see that almost all the water in your sauce has evaporated and the sauce is almost thick, add the reserved slices of eggplant and the stuffed hot peppers and now cover with a lid. Reduce to low and simmer for another 5-7 minutes or until is just start to see the melted Feta ooze out out of the peppers.
  5. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, sprinkle with dried Greek oregano and serve with lots of crusty bread and some more Feta cheese on the side.

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at  http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.

© 2007-2010 Peter Minakis

© 2010,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

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29 Comments for “Mantza (Μάντζα)”

says:

I want to try this now and it is only 7 in the morning! I was picturing the uncle pulling out the hot peppers from his lapel pocket and it made me laugh.

says:

Fantastic recipe Peter and beautiful photos!
Love this kind of food at room temperature with feta cheese and crusty bread!

says:

Love the stories about your Dad and Uncle, Peter. I guess they really liked their dishes hot. Wonderful to stuff the peppers with feta and anything with eggplant I would adore.
Super photos!

says:

I like the way you make it Petah, it’s rustic, it’s moreish and it’s just the way I would love it! No feta available on my spot of the globe, but do you think ricotta might work in the stuffing? Mmmm… just one worl to describe it!

ELENA

says:

Αυτό το πικάντικο πιάτο είναι τέλειο για βουτίτσες με φρέσκο ψωμάκι!!
Γέλασα πολύ με τον θείο, να σαι καλά!!
Καλή βδομάδα Peter!!

says:

I’m ready to make and eat some mantza. I agree with you that a little heat makes a dish interesting but too much can overpower. I love these rustic dishes and this one looks soo flavorful.

says:

Cheese stuffed chiles, that’s a winner in my book. Love your combination of ingredients, especially with eggplant and oregano, and love your chile-snipping uncle too.
LL

says:

My chillies are just beginning to fruit – I must keep this in mind for when they are ripe! So many of my favourite flavours!

says:

Oh I am with you on the heat philosophy. Add complexity but not so much it covers up every other flavor in the dish. And this is one fabulous dish! It looks so good. Love the feta cooked in the pepper.

says:

count me among the heat-lovers! this looks like an outstanding dish, especially with the accompaniment of some crusty and fluffy bread on the side to soak up every drop. :)
i also love the anecdote about the man carrying around hot peppers to add to his food–sounds like something i’d do if i were a bit more brave (and daffy). :)

says:

You bet I am ready to make this. WOW. There is NOTHING like a rustic dish. The photographs are leaping off of the page. I am not into heat, but will temper this for our palate. Thank you for the great summer dipping delight!
:)
Valerie

says:

I could definitely dunk some bread in that pot. I love some spicy hot peppers in my dish. It’s good for you this time of year. They make you sweat and cool you off!

Thanks for sharing the family stories too. I love my peppers, but I dont’ think I could eat them plain as a snack!

says:

I’m with you, Peter… I love spicy food, but too much and it ruins the dish. This dish looks absolutely amazing… kind of a Mediterranean Chile Relleno!

says:

Wonderful…in all its rustic simplicity. I love ‘heat’ but have never thought of carrying chili pepper in my lapel pocket. Like Karen above, I, too, was thinking of the Mexican ‘rellenos’.

says:

I love spicy and can definitely relate to your uncle who used to add chilies to dishes whenever he ate out! i should start doing that …

I’ve never heard hte name Mantza before … this dish looks lke pure rustic goodness on a plate … definitely the type of dish you need loads of bread to eat with.

says:

This dish calls you to dive in with a slice of hot bread. Or maybe make it two slices or three. Eat it until there’s nothing left. Great photos.