Monday, November 12, 2012

Fourteen Lights and Begun diye Palong Shak


Earnestly working on painting clay lamps

Bhoot Chaturdashi, the day before Kali Pujo, Bengalis have a tradition to light fourteen lamps and place them in fourteen dark corners of their home.Choddo Prodeep we call it.

The lamps that were painted and decorated by BS and LS

I remember rolling cotton wicks in the palm of my hand and helping my Ma light the fourteen clay prodeep which had been washed and dried in the sun all morning and were waiting ready, filled to the brim with golden Mustard oil. After the lamps were lit, came the next step, the most interesting one in this process. We had to find the darkest corners of the home to place the lamps, corners where darkness was thick and black like a blueberry jello and a flickering lamp could merely make a feeble statement .

There would be one placed near the tulsi plant, one on the outside window sill of the bathroom, a third by the choubachcha -- the water tank in the backyard, and then the rest by the doorstep of each rooms. This day was all about darkness and flickering clay lamps unlike the day of Deepavali when rows of slender wax candles would be stuck around the front verandah and lighted up to dispel any essence of darkness.



Bengalis also have a tradition to cook and eat fourteen different kind of greens on this day. Choddo -Shaak it is called.

Now I can understand the logic of fourteen lamps to dispel the darkness and bring light or to pay homage to fourteen ancestors, whichever theory you live your life by. But I have never understood the worthiness of fourteen greens. I mean you buy fourteen different kind of greens, which itself is a daunting task, then you chop them up, scary prospect and then cook fourteen different kind of dishes with these greens. Why ? Really why ? Am I consuming the year's worth of Vitamin A on this single day ?




So anyway the choddo shak never excites me, too much work.I would rather light lovely lamps, have a nice cup of hot tea and take pictures of both lamp and tea instead. Most that i try to do is, to cook one or two leafy greens and maintain traces of a ritual that has it origins. This year it was the simple Begun diye Palong Shaak, a classic Bengali recipe where Spinach greens are cooked with cubed pieces of eggplant in mustard oil and a Pui Shaak cooked with pumkin, eggplant and potatoes.

The star of the night however were the lamps, four of which were painted and decorated by Big Sis and Little Sis. They had much fun painting them and sticking them up with jewels. It is really an easy craft project for small kids and requires plain clay diyas,some paint and self stick rhinestones. The girls do not care for the fourteen, and we rarely light oil lamps, so this involvement in the whole prodeep thing charged them up and they waited and waited till evening fell and we lighted fourteen lamps.




Begun Diye Palong Shaak

Wash the spinach greens well and chop fine

Next chop an eggplant in small cubes. The idea is to have about 2 cups of cubed eggplant for a bunch of spinach

Heat mustard oil to smoking. Temper the oil with Kalonji, Dry Red Chili and a clove of garlic minced

Add the eggplant and saute till eggplant is soft.

Now add the spinach mixing it with the eggplant. Add little salt to taste, a few green chili slit and let the spinach cook. The greens will release a lot of water. Stir intermittently and let all the water dry up. Once the spinach is cooked and the dish looks dry add a little kashundi if you have some. If not finish off with a little mustard oil.

Serve with white rice.

Wishing you all a Happy Deepavali. Stay tuned for there is a giveaway coming up.

20 comments:

  1. Where's your "like button" next to all the pics with BS and LS, and their handiwork! Ah I understand, its implicit - of course everyone will like (LOVE!) them!! :-) Your recipe is good too, but like the sun on Tue, its eclipsed by their prodeep's :-)

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    1. Pictures were superb....

      Kindly visit my first recipe event @ "I love my Mom's Recipes"

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    2. Ha, ha...sundor na :) Sunday we had super weather

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  2. I found this link for you where choddo shaak bhaja is mentioned...

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  3. http://secondsaturn.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/bhai-phnota-2/

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  4. Pretty lamps and the girls are having a blast. Happy Diwali to you all!

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  5. Happy Deepavali to you and family Sandeepa.

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  6. Happy Diwali to you and your family Sandeepa. Love how earnestly and seriously the girls are painting the prodeeps.

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  7. It's lovely to see the kids painting..Happy Deepavali to you and your family too Sandy..

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  8. Pretty lamps. I did light choddo prodip yesterday and had palong shaak. Dipabolir anek anek shubhechcha.

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  9. Probably as we were consuming so many high sugar sweets and oily snacks, our ancestors came up with idea of 14 vegetables, makes us to eat all the vitamins in one day :) We do sambar with 21 vegetables for sakkranthi, absolutely don't know why:)
    The lamps got a warm personal touch, Happy Diwali to you and your sweet family, Sandeepa!

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  10. Shubho deepawali to you and yours lovely family ..tight hugs to BS and LS..I myself have never understood the value of 14 shak , but it was customary to eat it in our home..these days i can't count beyond 8 or 9 of them and in abroad let's just not mention it ...amra kalke shukto khelaam!!...jaag notun ghorey prothom deepawali onek bhalo katuk..hugs

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  11. What pretty diyas! the little ones are having a great time :)
    Happy Diwali to you and your Family.

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  12. Happy Diwali Sandeepa. Beautiful Diyas. isshhh kono shaak rannayi holo na. bhabchilam, bhabteyi theke gelam. khub bhalo katuk tomader ei bochor. love:)

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  13. Ever since I saw mention of the fourteen in your FB page, I've been trying to list 14 greens in my mind. Do coriander, mint and curry leaf count? Well,I managed to remember 9 without much trouble.



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  14. Wish you All a very happy Diwali And a prosperous new year. About choddo shak here in Kolkata the vegetable vendors do the tiresome job of collecting choddo shak for you and sell them all ready to be cooked in small plastic packets.

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  15. I love all activities your kids do. After reading this post, I told my kiddos to paint the diya's and they had a blast and lighted them at night all so happy.

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  16. Ummm will try this sometime,,.:) those diyas look so beautiful,..and thanks for the info about the ritual,,,:)

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  17. I add a little hing, turmeric and roasted cumin/coriander powder to this, always some dhone pata.

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  18. Where do you get the clay diyas from?
    Sutapa

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