¡La paella no se mueve!

You mustn’t stir paella, this is the tip my Spanish teacher kept repeating when she brought us the recipe for discussion in class. It was so funny!

I kept that photocopy for later use, until it’s now reduced to a rather tattered sheet of paper that has survived a few battles on the kitchen worktop between red peppers cut in stripes, mussel shells and cuttlefish ink.

Friday night I invited people for dinner promising I’d cook a Moroccan couscous. However, the two friends who’d asked me for it turned down the invitation due to a commitment in preparation of their upcoming wedding, so I thought I’d change the menu in observance of my personal eating habit that bans meat on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. My paella recipe is all seafood and fish, and doesn’t contain any rabbit or chicken that are featured in the paella valenciana.

When I had the pepper stripes sautéed and added in the other ingredients and finally the rice with the stock, Lola’s famous sentence came to my mind and made me smile. I could almost hear her ringing voice repeat ¡La paella no se mueve! To be true, I always break the diktat because I feel that a large pan on a smaller gas ring calls for some mixing from the periphery to the centre to allow homogeneous cooking, but at least I don’t stir it as I would do with a risotto.

After all, the stirring ban must be something like those meaningless rules that are passed on from generation to generation and form part of a dish’s folklore and sacredness, as hardly anybody dares to challenge them. For example there is a rule, which I even found printed on a maize flour packet once, that says you should stir polenta always in the same direction (can’t remember if it’s clock- or anticlockwise…) or it will curdle. I always stir polenta as I please and nothing bad ever happens!

The paella came out good. It was a one-dish meal, but in all the five of us gobbled up 500 g of rice compounded with a heap of other ingredients: no slimming diet portions.