RECIPE: How to prepare Romanian Saffron Fish Stew

Romanian fish stew

A fragrant fish stew, speciality of mountain villages where rippling streams are scoured by boys and girls for crayfish. 

Mâncărică de pește cu şofran (Romania)

Ever wondered about what you can do with those crayfish your kids like to catch when you go out camping? Alright, quite unlikely. But this recipe goes well with any river fish – sturgeon or carp especially – if you can‘t find freshwater crayfish at your local fishmonger.

Serves 4
Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking: 30 minutes

Romanian fish stewINGREDIENTS

– 6 strands saffron
– 2 medium onions
– 2 garlic cloves
– 2 green peppers
– 500gr/1 lb canned or fresh tomatoes
– 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (olive or sunflower)
– 1 glass white wine
– Juice 1 lemon
– 500gr/1 lb freshwater crayfish, live or very fresh
alternatively, 500 gr/1 lb sturgeon or carp, cut in thick chunks
– Salt and pepper to taste


Place the saffron threads in a small cup and soak in a tablespoon of boiling water.

Skin and slice the onions and garlic. Hull, deseed and chop the peppers into small pieces. Plunge the tomatoes in boiling water to loosen their skins, then peel and chop.

Heat the oil in a heavy casserole and lightly fry the onion and garlic until they become golden. Add the peppers and stir-fry them.

Add the fish chunks and brown for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes and the saffron with its water, the wine and the lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, till the sauce is rich and thick.

Season with salt and pepper.

If using crayfish, add them raw to the sauce after 5 minutes of cooking. They shouldn’t be cooked for longer than 5 minutes.

You might want to add a little more water or fish broth to the sauce, if it dries out too quickly.

Serve with polenta or a country loaf of bread.

Forget the fish and white wine rule: Cabernet Sauvignon, a typical variety of Romania and Bulgaria, suits this dish great.

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