Shashti is a Hindu folk goddess, worshipped as the benefactor and protector of children. She is also the deity of vegetation and reproduction. In Bengal, Shashti is worshipped on the sixth day after childbirth and on Shaat Shashthi (also called Jamai Shashti), the sixth day of the Hindu month of Jyeshtha.
Pritha says “As children, the day would start for us with a special bath. Then Ma would do the Puja by placing fruits on a palm leaf fan along with some tender grass blades and paddy. She would then do ‘Shaat shaat’ to us with the fan, sprinkle holy water, tie the Shashti thread on our wrists and offer the fruits & new clothes to us, praying all the while to the Goddess for our well being. The best and the most awaited part of the day used to be the feast that followed, specially prepared by Ma for the day.”
Mutton, 1/2 kg (Ribs portion) + 50 gm fat
For the marinade:
Onion Paste, 2 heaped tbsp
Garlic Paste, 1 tbsp
Dried Ginger Powder/Saunth, 1 tsp
Red Chilli Powder, 1 tsp
Papaya Paste, 1 tbsp
Lemon Juice, 1 tbsp
For the gravy:
Whole Red Chilies, 4-5
Poppy seed Paste, 1 tbsp
Hung Curd, ½ cup
Coriander/Dhania Powder, 1 tsp
Turmeric Powder, 1 tsp
Cinnamon Stick, 2 inch
Green Cardamoms, 2-3, Dry roasted and powdered
Black Cardamom/Badi Elaichi , 2 lightly crushed
Freshly ground Black Pepper, 1 tsp
Bay Leaf, 2
Oil & Ghee, ¾ cup (1:1)
Salt, to taste
Marinate the meat overnight with the ingredients mentioned under marinade. Bring the meat to room temperature before starting cooking.
Dry roast the cinnamon, cloves and green cardamoms. Grind fine and make a paste with a tbsp of water. Cover and keep aside.
Heat the oil & ghee mix in a heavy deep bottomed vessel. Add bay leaves, whole red chilies and the crushed black cardamoms.
Add the marinated mutton. Add the roughly chopped fat.
Make a paste of turmeric powder and red chilli powder by adding a tbsp of water. Add this to mutton now.
Cook covered in medium heat, stirring at regular intervals till oil starts to leave the sides. This should take about half an hour.
Add the hung curd, mix well and cook covered for 15 more minutes.
Add black pepper powder and coriander powder. Add salt to taste. Mix well.
Add the poppy seed paste mixed in about ½ cup water. Add the whole spice powder paste made earlier. Cook covered for 10 minutes more.
Now comes the tough bit.Remove the lid. Increase the flame. Allow the mutton to stick a little to the bottom making sure it does not burn and then scrape it, you need to do this 4-5 times till almost 70% of the oil-ghee combine gets released and the mutton turns into a rich dark reddish brown in colour. Remove from heat.
Serve hot with rice/bread of your choice.
-Courtesy Pritha Dutta