Auntie Mara’s Galataboureko


go straight to the recipe


Stories from Greece 1996
Thank God For Auntie Mara

After the fabulous cake shops of Athens, were fragrant sweet and sometimes yeasty smells lure you from the street, and the variety of options leave one with no other course than to be an absolute glutton, We hardly expected to be thinking constantly about my Australian Greek friend’s home cooking. Yet, in the countryside, where restaurant after restaurant lures you in with smells of grilling meat, they never serve sweets.

One day when we had walked to a nearby town, defeated by the idea walking back we were patiently and aimlessly waiting at the bus stop when an English girl and her boyfriend in a little van offered us a ride back to our village. “We’re going for pudding“ she informed us, “The best cake shop is in your village.“ This shop showed nothing of Athen’s glorious and most famous cake shops but we did understand the sort of desperation and longing for something sweet. Their baklava was usually so old you couldn’t cut it with a knife and the diplas tasted of nothing better than the rancid fat in which they were fried. They’d driven forty kilometres, and we could only imagine how far they would have driven for the bliss of my friend Zeffie’s Cream Katieifi, Angela’s Diplas and Mara’s Galatorboureko.

So what did we do? I whisked Mara’s recipe off of the computer, we managed to buy everything we needed at the tiny supermarket to assemble it, and traded half of our Galatorboureko for the use of an oven. Such was our longing for something exquisitely sweet we had devoured our half in a matter of minutes and such is the fame of the other half that the recipe was translated into Greek, with full credit, of course, to Auntie Mara.

We couldn’t buy a vanilla pod, so we substituted a handful of peach leaves, removing them from the milk as you would the vanilla pod and once the semolina had been added, stirred through the grated rind of a medium lemon. Strained lemon juice was substituted for the Cointreau. We didn’t have a blender to further refine and cream the semolina, but without it still achieved a most satisfactory result.

In 1996 after a terrible car accident on South Australia’s Kangaroo Island I was unable to work for over a year and with very limited funds lived in Greece in the tiny Peleponese village of Kardamilli for six months. The coocking facilities were limited to a 15 cm and a 10 cm electric ring, but as my health improved, and inspired by the incredible produce it was amazing what could be cooked in such limited circumstances….AO
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[makes 12 – 16 slices]

for the syrup
450g castor sugar
500g water
50g honey
1 strip of lemon peel

for the galatorboureko
5 extra large eggs – 61g
250g fine semolina
250g of castor sugar
1500ml milk
375g of unsalted butter
1 vanilla pod, split and scraped
30g of Cointreau or fruit syrup
1 packet of fine filo pastry…allowed to come to room temperature

Essential Equipment
large pastry brush and a flat bottomed baking dish approximately 24 cm x 33 cm or some sort of equivalently largish seamless cake tin.


for the syrup

Put the sugar, water, honey and lemon peel into an at least a two litre saucepan and place on high heat. Bring the mixture up to the boil, turn the heat down and reduce by about 1/3, using a ladle or skimmer to remove any scum that may collect. Set the syrup aside.

for the galatorboureko
Put the eggs into the blender, then add the semolina and the sugar and puree until very fine and creamy. Put the milk and 125g of butter into the heavy based saucepan, split the vanilla pod, scrape the seeds out and put them both into the milk. Place the milk on medium heat. Melt the remaining butter in the microwave or in a saucepan and generously butter the baking dish. Stir the milk from time to time to prevent it from burning, allowing it to heat until it is very hot, but not boiling. Remove the pan to one side, take out the vanilla pod and whisk in the semolina and egg mixture. Return to the heat and stir constantly to prevent it from burning. Continue cooking until it is very thick and makes large plopping sounds from the bubbles. Remove from the heat, stir through the Cointreau, but still stir occasionally, as the bottom of the pan will still keep cooking.

Open up the filo pastry, lightly butter a sheet of pastry and line the base of the baking pan, butter side up, leaving the pastry standing up along the sides of the tin and repeating the process until the bottom and sides are evenly covered with three thicknesses of filo pastry – about 2/3 of the packet. Scrape the custard into the tin, and then carefully fold in the sides, buttering any dry edges. Butter a sheet of filo pastry, place it in the centre of the top, and carefully and neatly, tuck the outside edges down the sides of the tin. Repeat the process with the remaining sheets of filo pastry, making sure that the last one is well buttered and the edges are very neat so that nothing will burn.

Matoula B’s fabulous tip….allow the Galataboureko to cool at room temperature and then using a sharp knife without cutting to the bottom portion it…makes for gorgeous smooth cutting of the finished Galataboureko!!

pre heat the oven to 175°C
Spray or splash the Galatorboureko lightly with cold water and put it in the oven. Bake it for approximately 30 – 45 minutes, or until golden brown, giving it another light water spray/splash during the cooking time.

Remove it from the oven, and ladle half of the syrup, mainly around the edges and a little over the hot Galatorboureko. Do not cut it for at least 15 minutes, so that the custard has time to firm up.

The honey from the Peloponnese is rightly famous throughout Greece and quite superb, very light and fragrant without being as strong, as for instance, our Blue Gum honey. The bees here are so huge, they remind me of the cake decoration bees, with their stretched chiffon wings and fluffy, velvety black and yellow pipe cleaner bodies, and are about the same size – huge.

The little honey soaked yoghurt puffs, Loukemathes, make a delicious breakfast with coffee and are made easily, by whisking together 375g plain yoghurt, with 175g SRF and the grated rind of a medium lemon until it is free of lumps. It is covered and refrigerated or left in a cool place for several hours, or preferably over night. Teaspoons full are then deep fried in hot clean oil until golden and submerged in honey syrup for which the previous recipe is also perfect.


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