Swiss Chard with Lentils and Preserved Spiced Meat

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes about

    6 cups

Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

Here's a humble home winter dish you'll never find in a tourist-oriented Moroccan restaurant, though you might find it in a Moroccan workingman's café, or sold off a stand in the Djemaa el Fna in Marrakech.

It employs khelea, a form of preserved meat used throughout the Maghreb as a condiment. Cubes of preserved lamb or beef add bursts of flavor to numerous North African winter dishes.

Velvet-textured cooked Swiss chard goes beautifully with the spicy meat and brown lentils. This trio makes for a delicious rendition of lentils and greens, a dish you'll find prepared in numerous ways around the Mediterranean.

Khelea can be salty, so be sure to wash it well. In some parts of northern Morocco, especially in the Rif mountains where they prefer it salty, a handful of young borage leaves, believed to have diuretic properties, is added to this dish.


  • 10 pieces preserved meat (½ recipe khelea)
  • cups (½ pound) small brown lentils, preferably Spanish pardina (see Mail Order Sources)
  • ¾ pound large Swiss chard leaves, leaves shredded, ribs peeled and diced
  • 3 medium red onion(s), diced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • Sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon Moroccan Mixed Spices
  • ½ cup chopped tomatoes
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Fresh lemon juice


  1. Remove the preserved meat from the refrigerator. Scrape off the fat and reserve 2 tablespoons. (Save the remaining khelea and fat for Moroccan couscous, dried bean dishes, or sautéed potatoes.) Rinse the meat under running water to remove the excess salt; shred coarsely and soak in fresh water until ready to use.
  2. Pick over and wash the lentils. Put them in a 3- or 4-quart saucepan, cover with water, and bring them slowly to a full boil, skimming; drain. Cover the lentils with 1 quart of cold fresh water and return to a boil. Add the chard leaves and ribs to the lentils. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the reserved 2 tablespoons fat in a large straight-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the red onions and cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, a pinch of salt, and the Moroccan spices and cook for 2 minutes longer. Drain the meat and add to the skillet. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and half the chopped cilantro and parsley. Continue to cook, covered, until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. (If necessary, add a few tablespoons water to keep the mixture moist.)
  4. Add the contents of the skillet to the saucepan; bring to a boil, cover, and cook over medium-low heat until the lentils are tender, 10 to 20 minutes, depending upon the quality of the lentils. Remove from the heat and let the lentils rest, covered, for 15 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Garnish with the remaining cilantro and parsley.