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This is a recipe my Aunty Victoria gave me that she uses for Galaktoboureko, my all-time favourite dessert.

I last tested it out with her, my mother, and Master O when we visited her in Queensland in November 2009 and I have been carrying around the recipe, tucked away in my journal/diary, ever since! 

It’s definitely time to share – and a good idea for me to keep the recipe forever handy – right here.

What It Is: A custard-filled filo pastry dessert. The pudding-like, milk custard is thickened with semolina (Greek simigthali) and/or cornstarch. Immediately after baking, galaktoboureko is soaked in a light lemony, or orange, syrup. The phyllo is layered above and below the custard and baked in a pie pan and then sliced (pictured) or rolled into individual servings. While the syrup can be served on the side instead of spooned overtop (cop-out), it’s best to serve the dish once it has completely cooled and the syrup has been fully absorbed by the pastry.

Where It’s From: A traditional Greek sweet. The name, which translates to “milk pie,” originates from the Greek words galact (milk) and bourkek (pie).

Just like the spelling of the word phyllo (or filo), the spelling of galaktoboureko seems to be up to interpretation.

Serves: 12

Cooking time: 1 hour

Oven temperature: 180C (350F)

4 cups milk

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup fine semolina

1/4 cup butter

grated rind of 1/2 lemon

8cm (3 inch) cinnamon stick

pinch of salt

5 eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

250g (8 oz) filo pastry

1/3 cup melted, unsalted butter

1/2 quantity syrup (see following)


1 cup water

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons rose water

1. Mix milk, sugar, semolina, butter, lemon rind, cinnamon stick and salt in a heavy based saucepan and heat until thickened, stirring constantly.

2. Let custard bubble gently over low heat for 5 minutes.

3. Take from heat and remove cinnamon stick.

4. Cover with a piece of buttered paper to prevent skin forming.

5. When cool blend in eggs and vanilla.

6. Butter a 33 x 23 x 5 cm (13 x 9 x 2 inch) oven dish.

7. Place half of the filo pastry sheets (about 5 sheets) in the dish, brushing each sheet with the melted butter.

8. Pour in custard and top with remaining sheets, again brushing each with butter as it is placed in position.

9. Brush top with remaining butter and score through top three sheets of filo in 8cm (3 inch) squares or diamonds.

10. Trim edges and bake in a moderate oven for 45 minutes until golden brown and custard is set when tested with a knife.

11. Remove from oven and cool thoroughly in the dish.

12. Make Syrup according to ingredients above.

13. Boil for 12 minutes and cool to lukewarm before straining and pouring over the pie.

14. Leave until cool before serving.