Monday, February 07, 2011

Gota Sheddho Revisited

I am a fourth generation Bengali to grow up in Bihar. I also went to a convent school. Such socio-cultural dynamics are not strange or unheard of in India. But they clearly contribute largely in raising a sufficiently confused young girl.

IMG_1194IMG_1220 Tomorrow is Saraswati Puja in India. Growing up, it meant an extra holiday in school. I do not remember myself doing any prayer ritual on this day; although something that lingers on from this day is the taste of Gotta Sheddho, literally translated from Bengali as “whole boiled”.

IMG_1231I am told, Gota Sheddho is a Ghoti thing, where Grandmothers and Mothers cook at least five types of whole vegetables with lentils on the day of Saraswati Puja, and eat it the next day, when its cooled down. The day of Sheetal Shasti.

IMG_1199 Saraswati Puja in the part of Bihar I lived in, meant young boys and men setting up pandals in the neighborhood and praying to the Goddess of Knowledge. It often translated into muted nuisance where the more boisterous boys would visit every home in the neighborhood to collect donations or chanda, which sadly was more forced than voluntary. These were also the boys who probably never went to school. So their association with “learning and knowledge” remained questionable.

IMG_1196 But I do not want to undermine the credibility of their efforts in making arrangements for just one day only (though “celebrations” often stretched to a week). Loud music - most often the raunchiest songs of that year made a perfect set up to tease and torment scared girls who ventured out on the streets that day. Another reason for me to stay in and prepare for the final exams coming up the next month. Though traditionally, its a pen and paper down day in India for all students.

But watching young girls and boys in their finest dresses made a great celebration from home. Some girls as young as 12 or 13 would wear saris.

IMG_1212On this day, it is traditional to wear the color yellow (or mustard yellow) to welcome the Spring/Basant season in India. My memories of girls wearing yellow cotton saris, their hairs washed and smelling of Head & Shoulders, making a wet patch of damp at the back of their blouses where their hair ended are quite vivid. Each girl giggling, walking nervously in their little heels when they saw a group of boys coming their way. This day also made for a great desi, pre-Valentine’s Day celebration. All in the name of knowledge!

IMG_1189 With all the Saraswati Puja gung-ho around me, I would shift between bending over the cast iron railings of our terrace to people watch, run to the kitchen to see how Mum was making Gota Sheddho and sprint back to a very visible spot where people could see me “studying”. Clearly I was the only one who was not letting the Goddess of Knowledge down.

Now back to the taste of tradition – Gota Sheddho. There is no one recipe for this vegetarian stew, packed with hearty vegetables. Each family pretty much does it their own way. I will of course share how its made in my family. I had previously made Gota Sheddho on a regular day and the recipe is here.

Ingredients for Gota Sheddho are:

IMG_1200 IMG_1203 IMG_1207 Half cup whole urad dal
Half cup whole green moong
2 small sweet potatoes (either whole or cut into quarters)
Handful of whole green peas, remove the stringy part
Handful of broad beans/sheem, remove the stringy part
6-7 small eggplants
Few green chilies, slit
1 1/2 tablespoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoon mustard oil

Wash the two dals and begin to boil them in a pressure cooker or a thick bottom saucepan – for about 25-30 minutes.

IMG_1209 When the lentils get to a rolling boil, add vegetables, ginger, green chilies, turmeric powder, salt and sugar and pressure cook on medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes or until vegetables and dals are cooked. Just when you think all the vegetables and dals and well cooked but not too mushy, drizzle the mustard oil, remove from heat.

The Gota Sheddho is the right balance of sweet and savory, so do a test taste and adjust accordingly.



Sharmila said...

Love gota sheddho ... but not thanda. Besh gorom gorom bhalo lage bhaater shonge. :-)
What wonderful presentation Pree!

Tanvi@Sinfully Spicy said...

You know Pree..why I love your blog..You are like me..still attached to rituals/food you have seen growing up.I will make sweet rice tomorrow and have memories of wearing yellow clothes and threads on basant panchami.Loved reading your dose of rituals too.

? said...

Loved the introduction! :-D
For us the autumn Saraswathi Puja/ Vidyarambam is more important though these alos fall in important days in the religious calender. This sounds like one of those very simple, though satisfying dishes.

Sanghamitra Bhattacherjee(Mukherjee) said...

Loved your gota a fav in our ghoti home :) Shubho basanta panchami/Saraswati Puja :)

Scribbler :) said...

Brought back so many memories. You are a fine writer, dear...because only a fine writer observes and then describes the tiniest detail (like the wet patch on women's blouses) so vividly.
Really really enjoyed this post.

Anonymous said...

Soma said...

amo onek chotto bela theke saraswati pujo te sari pori:-) ekhon ar kobe pujo ta ri kheyla thake na. I should do it for my kids, but don't.. janina keno.

Amar ma gota shedhho kore parar onek barite dito. she used to make a gota moshla at home, thik janina ki, which she would sprinkle after the dish was cooked. koto kichu jiggesh korar thake.. mon ta kirokom kharap hoye jaye.

Satrupa said...

Once again luvd the writeup .... It brings back so many memories, the gota sheddho looks delicious.Though I am not very comfortable with the idea of cooking whole vege. Scared it won't get cooked. But will give it a try soon.


Rekha said...

Great post, loved the description and the picture of Saraswati too. The recipe goes to my must-try list.

Sayantani said...

as a kid I never liked gota seddho tabe akhon khub miss kori. khub sundor pujor ayojon Pree.

shruti said...

wonderful post.. loved the pictures

Priya said...

Thats a wonderful revisit, this gota sheddho makes me drool..

shooting star said...

basant panchami er shubheccha
im right now in asansol, participating in saraswati pujo celebrations across the neighbourhood..morning pushpanjoli , colorful dresses and finally bhog!!...totally nice!!!

Deepi's World said...

Wow! lovely images.. love the diya and framed image of Maa..

Pallavi Arunika said...

Basant panchami ki shubh kamnayen !
I really enjoyed reading your post and thanks for introducing me to gota sheddho. I also loved the diya that a bengali style ?

Shanthi said...

Luved the write up and wqonderful images. Nice space.

PreeOccupied said...

My Mum saw this post yesterday and pointed out some "corrections". It should be six kind of vegetables and NOT five like I have mentioned. She also said its "Gota" (whole), I should not have cut the sweet potato in small pieces. :-(

Cham said...

U have some amazing frame work and statues collections, it is a sweet lovely post!
I can see pretty much veg are cooked in the original shape - totally new recipe:)

purplehomes said...

hope you had a great time on Saraswati Pooja. The pics with those sweet touches are so lovely

Shilpi Bose said...

After posting my piece on Gota Sheddo I noticed your post,I admit when I read this post I was surprised to see the cut sweet potato, but I guess your mum has told you how it is done, all the same it is quite different from they way it is made in my home, we add no masalas.