I love the last week of carnival season. It is a special one in the tiny country of the Mediterranean Basin called Greece. Why? According to tradition and Orthodox religion (strongly interrelated for centuries), it is “dairy week” (Tirini). Back in the old days, shepherds sold their dairy products milked the same day. All week long home cookers baked all kind of custard pies, cheese pies, pasta pies, made yogurts, artisanal cheeses and butter. It was allowed to eat dishes based on animal products but not meat.
How crazy this week for people like me? A profoundly dairy lover. Understatement. Dairy maniac. Visualize the reaction of someone like me eating a traditional Greek custard pie. What? You cannot because you have never tasted that kind of pie? I hear you! That little problem can be easily solved because if you are like me, you definitely should bake that Greek custard pie. Give me 60 minutes in your kitchen (only 15 minutes of actually cooking) and I will give you the best custard pie of your life.
Oh, my!!! I have this vague memory of my grandmother baking a custard pie in firewood oven but unfortunately, I cannot recall the flavor. You see, I was impressed by the fire and the whole baking procedure and I didn’t care much about the pie. Believe me, it was divine and I got my mother’s testimony and recipe to prove it. This recipe is a keeper even if you don’t bake it in a firewood oven.
It is so simple to make: In a pot boil milk, sugar, butter, semolina, add eggs and …. in the oven. That easy!!!
I strongly recommend using dairy products from goat or sheep. I used goat milk and sheep butter trying to replicate my grandmother’s recipe back then when they made that pie from products of their livestock. I know it is rather difficult to find those products but don’t worry. Use whatever it is easier for you to find or available in your fridge. I assure you it will be delicious.
The only tricky part is not to burn the cream because semolina thickens the mixture. Finally add gradually the eggs and stir like crazy otherwise they stiffen.
- 4 cups (1 litre) milk
- 1 cup sugar
- ⅔ cup fine semolina
- ½ cup + 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 5 eggs, well beaten
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- Cinnamon and powdered sugar (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 °F (180°C).
- In a heavy pot heat the milk with the butter until lightly boiling no more than 5 minutes. Add sugar, vanilla extract, lemon zest and add gradually the semolina on low heat. Stir and be careful because the cream thickens and can easily burn. The cream is thick enough in more or less 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Beat well the eggs and gradually add them in the cream. Stir continuously.
- Grease really well a 9 inches tart pie tin or a pie dish and pour the mixture in it. Bake at 350 °F (180°C) for about 45 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let it cool.
- Sprinkle powdered sugar and cinnamon (optional) and serve.