I had never made Gota Sheddho before. Neither has my Mother. It is my Dida, my Ma's mother, whose Gota Sheddho is what I remember today. Her Gota Sheddho was much in demand in the North Kolkata neighborhood she lived. Younger women who had turned new mothers would send out a request to her before Saraswati Pujo. "Mashima, amar jonyo ektu gota deben", they would say. In the years that we lived in Kolkata, she would send it for my Mother too, in steel tiffin carrier boxes, the day after Saraswati Pujo.
The dish did not look appetizing with its dull brown black color and I never really wanted to taste it. It was supposed to be had cold and my Ma would implore me to have at least a serving of what Dida has sent.. "It is good for you", she would say. I would swallow it like I would a lot of other veggies at that age. Fast. Pushing the morsels at the back of my throat. Refusing to taste it with my tongues or senses. I wish I had better adjectives to describe that dish my Dida cooked with love for the wellbeing of her children and then theirs. But I hardly tasted the dish and every year I wondered if the young women in my Dida's neighborhood had gone bonkers to send request for "Gota Sheddho".
"Why would anyone want to have Gota Sheddho ?", I often wondered.
|The Five vegetables: Red Potatoes, Purple Eggplant, Green Sheem, Whole peas in a pod, Baby Spinach|
Yesterday on my FB page, a reader asked if I had a recipe for Gota Sheddho."Nope", I told her. And there the matter rested. Until another reader came by and shared a recipe of her Mother's Gota Sheddho. Anuradha's Mom's recipe was simple like it should be and it instantly reminded me of my Dida's Gota Sheddho. I had a hunch that this was how Dida made it. Strangely, at that point, I did not remember it as the dull black unappetizing dish instead I remembered it as something my Dida cooked. It must have been good, I told myself, she was a fantastic cook after all.
So I called my Mother. I wanted to know the story behind the dish. Why was it had cold ? Why was it cooked at all on Saraswati Pujo ? Information trickled down and a tradition shaped up.
|I did not have Masshkolai so I used Green Moong|
Ma said, "The day after Saraswati Pujo is Sheetol Shoshti. Shoshthi is the goddess of fertility and worshiped by Mothers as a guardian angel of their offspring. Sheetol==Cool. And on the day of sheetol shoshthi, cold gota sheddho that had been cooked the previous day, is to be had by Mothers worshipping Ma Shoshthi.
The way your Dida made Gota Sheddho was by boiling kali urad(the urad dal with skin) known as maashkolai in Bengali with five different vegetables in season which were to be added whole, little salt, sugar to taste, some pieces of ginger and drizzle of raw mustard oil to finish off. The vegetables most commonly used were small red potatoes, small eggplant, sheem, whole green peas in their pod and baby spinach."
Okay, so the Gota Sheddho was cooked on Saraswati Pujo but had cold only the next day and it was done apparently for the long life of one's children.
My Mother also said that on the day of Sheetol Shoshthi, Dida wrapped the sheel-nora in a fresh new cotton cloth and worshiped it. It was the sheel-nora's day off and no masala(spices) were to be ground or made into a paste. Amazingly, the gota sheddho is cooked sans any spices also. Not even a speck of turmeric is added to it. I am not sure if this was as a respect for the sheel-nora but that is how the story goes.
Now that I think of it, there seems to be a deeper meaning to the whole thing. Saraswati Pujo heralds the advent of Spring and with Spring came many diseases in those days. So along with the prayers for well being of the children, the food cooked was something healthy and brimming with nutrients from the steamed fresh new vegetables and dals. A diet like that would keep any disease at bay, given that you had it every day.
Now, there are many different versions of this dish. Each home in Bengal has their own little touch to Gota Sheddho. I closely followed my Dida's recipe, as narrated by my Ma. But I had to adapt and make some changes. I did not have the black urad dal and so I used green moong. I used five vegetables but did not follow the rule of six parts or numbers of each. Also instead of the raw mustard oil I heated up mustard oil, tempered it with few dry red chillies and added that oil to finished dal.
I am not a ritualistic person and I did not do this with the religious goal in mind. Everyday I pray for my children's well being and I do not believe that having a cold dal on a certain Spring day would do any extra good. But I am sure my Dida and the women of their generations had their own reasons and nothing beats the fact that this is a dish brimming with nutrition. I liked it hot though. And a squeeze of lime made it better.
Dida's Gota Sheddho -- my version
The day before cooking, soak 1/2 cup of Green Moong in water. Actual recipes asks for Black urad.
The next day, in a big pot, add the soaked dal. In my case this was the pressure cooker.
Along with the dal add the following veggies whole. No chopping or cutting. Makes life easy.
Small Red Potatoes
Small Round eggplant
Whole peas in their pods
Baby Spinach with stems
Ideally each vegetable should be added in six-es. But I did not follow this rule
Add enough water to the pot to cover the veggies and dal.
Add salt to taste.
Add 5-6 whole green chillies
Add a tbsp of grated or minced ginger
Cook till dal and veggies are done. Since I did it in a whistling pressure cooker, I did it for about 5 whistles at low medium heat.
When done, dry off excess water if you wish. Add sugar to taste. Drizzle enough mustard oil. Serve hot or cold.
Instead of raw oil, I heated a tbsp of Mustard Oil in a separate kadhai. Tempered the hot oil with 4 Dry Red Chillies. Added the Oil+Red Chillies to the cooked dal.
This dish also goes to Jaya's event "I cooked Gota Sheddho in my Indian pressure cooker and it did not blow up in my face".