Our next recipe in the Tagine Masterclass series is different from the normal tagine recipes you find everywhere. We’ll be cooking the super easy Khlea and Egg Tagine. So I thought I would first introduce you to the delights of Khlea or Khlii, as it is also spelt.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
What is Khlea?
Khlea is Moroccan preserved meat, not unlike the French duck confit (Confit de Canard) used in Cassoulet.
Small pieces of beef or lamb are marinated in some light spices, then cooked, before being preserved in fat and stored in the fridge. It may not be the prettiest thing to look at, but boy, are looks deceiving! If you’ve ever had duck confit, you’ll know what I’m talking about!
In Morocco, where I learnt this recipe, you can find tubs of it sold very easily in shops and souk stalls.
Traditional Khlea Recipe
Traditionally when making Khlie, the meat is seasoned then dried in the sun, before being used. This seasoned meat is called gueddid and is kind of like the South African biltong.
It is this gueddid that is used for making traditional khlie, with suet and olive oil. This confit is then preserved for up to 2 years in a whole lot of fat. While this is still practised in far out, rural areas, these days, many Moroccan families just resort to buying it as it is so easily available everywhere.
To make things easier for my readers, I’ve dispensed with the dried meat, and start the recipe by using fresh meat. This is the cheat’s version of the real thing and is also know as M’qila Slaouia or M’qila Rbata (the town of Rabat).
This version is said to have originated in the town of Salé.
During our last trip to Morocco, we stayed for a month in Salé, a little known town about 20 minutes away from Rabat, the capital. Everyone was so friendly and helpful, from our landlord to our neighbours to the folks who ran the cafes, restaurants and shops in the area.
This recipe is from one of the local cafes that we frequented. We lived in a quiet, up and coming neighbourhood, 5 minutes from the sea, and almost on our doorstep was an array of local shops, cafes and tea houses. My kids love going out to eat, wherever we are, and in Morocco, it was no different.
Having a place for breakfast (and lunch and dinner!) just a minute’s walk from home was a huge attraction to them. That was their first time in Morocco and their delight and enthusiasm was really wonderful to behold! They were willing to try almost everything!
On one of those mornings, while digging into some khlea and egg tagine, I asked about making khlea and was rewarded with an invitation into the kitchen to observe the process! Did I mention how friendly everyone was? It really was a wonderful experience and below, you’ll find the recipe exactly as I learnt it that day. Apparently, this quick version of making Khlea originated in Salé itself, but who knows?
How to Use Khlea
Khlea (both the cheat and traditional version is a very popular dish during Eid, especially Eid ul Adha, the Muslim festival of Sacrifice, as there is always plenty of meat around, especially lamb.
Khlea is used in so many different ways, both as a condiment as as an ingredient.
A very popular way to use khlii is to cook it with eggs in a tagine, for breakfast. I definitely indulge in this whenever I find myself in Morocco or other parts of North Africa with lots of bread (khobz) and mint tea.
Khlea can also used to flavour soups (like the harira below), couscous and just about anything else you fancy using it, in place of regular meat. One of my favourite ways is to make Moroccan bread/pancake stuffed with khlii. Msemen or meloui stuffed with this preserved meat is simply amazing!
It would make a great pizza topping too!
The fat from khlea is also full of flavour, so is a great flavour enhancer if you use it in place of your regular fat/oil, just like goose fat or beef dripping. So when that meat has finished, don’t throw the fat away!
What is Suet?
Suet is the saturated fat that’s found around kidneys and other organs in animals, it’s solid at room temperature. You should be able to get it from your butcher, although in the UK, beef and vegetable suet are easily available in packets at supermarkets.
Traditionally, in the UK, Christmas puddings were made using beef suet, which is shredded for use.
Suet is used in steamed puddings because it has a higher melting point than butter and the pudding has a chance to set before the it starts to melt, unlike butter.
Vegetarian suet is usually made with palm oil and is also solid at room temp, also grated for use.
Substitute: no real substitute but you could get away with using solid vegetable shortening/fat. Grate the amount you need and substitute with suet in your recipe. In making Khlea however, just omit the suet and double up on the olive oil in this recipe.
Ready to try something new? Let’s get cooking!
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Khlea (Khlii), Moroccan Preserved Meat
- 500 g beef or lamb cut in small pieces (slow cooking cuts like chuck, topside, leg, shoulder, neck)
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- ½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
- ½ tsp chilli flakes
- 2 tsp salt
- 5 cloves garlic crushed or finely chopped
- 100 g beef suet (or substitute with half a cup of vegetable oil)
- 125 ml EV olive oil
- Dry fry the coriander and cumin seeds on low heat for 2-3 minutes until you get a lovely fragrance.
- Tip out onto a flat plate, cool for 5 minutes, then place in a spice mill or pestle and mortar and blitz or pound to a semi coarse grind.
- Now mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, cover with cling film and place in the fridge overnight.
- Transfer the whole lot into a large frying pan and heat over medium flame.
- When it’s heated up and the suet is beginning to melt, lower the heat right down and cook for 2 – 2.5 hours until the meat is a very dark colour.
- Transfer everything into a sterilised jar and store in the fridge and use as described above. Just like any confit, it’s great to eat now but gets better as it ages.