Moroccan sweet Mderbel of pumpkin or butternut

I have to admit that I’m not a pumpkin or butternut lover. However, it’s the only recipe that gets me to eat these two.

Mderbel (*) of pumpkin is a traditional cooked salad in Fez. It also gets served on the top of a nice Mqualli of chicken or meat especially during the remembrance of the Prophet Mohammed’s (SAAS) birth.

It can be served cold as a salad or warm when it’s served as accompaniement to the meat.

The traditional recipe is generous on oil and sugar, but it’s so tasty. You could be tempted to adjust the sugar and oil for dietary purposes which is fine, but I suggest you try the combination I’m giving here before changing it.

Serves 8
Prep: 10 min- Cooking: 30 – 40 min

  • About 800 g of pumpkin or butternut flesh cut into chuncks, discard seeds (**)
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable or olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp of salt 
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of ground cinnamon 
  • 5-6 tbsps of honey or sugar (original recipes may call for more which gives a better caramelization)
  • A good pinch of mastic gum, crushed to powder with 1/2 tsp of caster sugar

To decorate (can be made ahead and frozen)

  • 1 tbsp of toasted sesame seeds

A typical traditional version of Mderbel could render some frying oil and will look darker.

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Steam the chuncks (you could leave the skin on for now).

When they’re tender, transfer them to a warm frying/sauce pan with maximum flat surface. Add the oil, salt, cinnamon, sugar and start mashing as you toss and stir.

The first step of cooking is to steam the pumkin/butternut

Keep doing this over medium heat for about 15 mins. Taste to see if it’s relatively sweet (it should not be so sweet like a jam).

To fry/caramelize the paste, you will need to dedicate a good 20 minutes to this task without leaving the pan unattended. Past the 15 min, add mastic gum and keep tossing and stirring.

The second step of cooking is about mashing, tossing and stirring the mash

The pumpkin/butternut mash so dry from water and become thick. Once you are satisfied with the colour and texture, knock off the heat and set aside to cool.

Serve cold as a salad.

A Mderbel of butternut looks lighter than pumpkin due to their difference in colour


(*) Mderbel refers to a ingredient or a mix which has been mashed, tossed and stirred all in one cooking process. We have Mderbel of aubergine, Mderbel of pumpkin and Mderbel of cauliflower

(**) You could mash the steamed pumpkin and freeze it. You will only have to deal with the second stage of cooking when you need to make this recipe.

Author: Nada

Nada Kiffa is an Expert in Moroccan cooking and her recipes are coming from a lineage of Moroccan home and professional cooks. Cooking classes and posted articles are inspired by her family life in Morocco and elsewhere. You will learn what makes a dish Moroccan before learning how to execute it. You will also learn how to work around recipes and cut corners without missing on the flavour.

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