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Recipes with Roddy Damalis

recipes1 page 1

Don’t be scared of phyllo

I generally do not bake, I’m petrified of all the weighing, measuring, timing and precision that it involves. I feel much more comfortable with a whole lamb to deal with! To deal with this phobia, my mother and I had an arrangement in our restaurants… she would handle the desserts, and I the rest of the menu, each of us doing what we were happy expressing ourselves with.

I did, however, learn a few tips from her and found an ingredient that I am very happy and comfortable using, phyllo pastry! I know that many of us are intimidated by it. The truth is that once you learn a few tricks, you will use it in many shapes and forms.

Phyllo pastry can be found in the freezer section of the supermarket in 500g packages. There are two options, the one is the thinner version which is used for sweet recipes and the second is the thicker which is used for savory recipes such as Spanakiopita, or spinach pie.

Defrost the phyllo overnight in the fridge. Make sure that you have all your remaining ingredients prepared and ready before you open the wrapping. Phyllo has very little water in it so it dries up very quickly, that is why we have a dampened tea towel ready to cover it after opening and unrolling it. I generally use butter in sweet recipes and olive oil in savoury. The butter should be melted until creamy and not until it separates. Grease your baking pan or oven dish, place a sheet of phyllo, using both hands on a dry surface. Using a large pastry brush, I use a black bristled paint brush from the hardware shop, this way you work faster and will easily see if a bristle falls out.

Brush the first sheet with the oil or butter, making sure that the entire surface is covered. Gently place the second sheet on top of the first. Please fight the urge to straighten out and flatten them together. What we want to achieve is loosely layered sheets that cook individually with buttery, crispy layers that you crunch into. Repeat this for the required number of layers and then add your milk tart filling which MUST be cold and cover with the remaining sheets. In the case of the baklava, sprinkle the cracked almond mixture over the phyllo and drizzle with more butter so that the almonds cook to a golden colour. All this time covering the phyllo with the damp tea cloth, you can roll up the remainder and place it back into its plastic sheath and freeze for your next recipe.

Before placing your creation into a preheated oven remember to sprinkle the top layer with water ensuring that the top layers do not burn.

Another MUST is to always remember to add cold syrup to the hot pie or dessert as it comes out the oven. This shocks the pastry and keeps it crispy. Adding a hot syrup would just turn all your efforts into a soggy mess. Do not cover the baklava as this too will wilt the pastry. Use a net to cover.

The baklava recipe is a favourite as I have served it for years as well as teach it in my workshops. It has all the taste and flavour of the original baklava just using two sheets of phyllo. In the traditional version 50 sheets are used! I serve it with a good vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

The Galaktoboureko milk tart is also one of my favorites, I serve it hot, and my guests love it. Here I have used a lavender syrup as an alternative to the traditional citrus blossom or rose essence.


Galaktoboureko (Greek Milk Tart)

For filling

1 litre of milk

4 eggs

1 tablespoon butter

3 tablespoons sugar

1 envelope vanilla sugar

½ cup semolina

½ cup corn flour

1 packet Phyllo pastry (10 sheets)

150g butter (for pastry)

For syrup

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 teaspoon lavender flower (fresh or dried)


Combine all the syrup ingredients and boil for 15 minutes.

Allow to cool.

Dissolve the semolina and corn flour with 1 cup of milk in a mixing bowl.

Add eggs and whisk until ingredients combine.

Place mixture into a pot and cook on a low heat, stirring, for approximately 15 minutes until mixture thickens.

When thick, remove from heat.

Using a baking dish, layer phyllo pastry and brush each layer with melted butter (6 layers). Butter the dish too. Add slightly cooled custard filling and top with another 6 layers of phyllo, brushing with butter.

Score phyllo into portions but do not cut through (use a very sharp knife).

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 160C for 1 hour (or until golden).

Remove from the oven and pour cold syrup over the pie.

Allow to cool before serving.



recipes2 page 1Light & Delicate Baklava

6 sheets Phyllo pastry

400g almonds (cracked)

1 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

150g butter (gently melted)

For syrup

1½ cups white sugar

1½ cups water

½ teaspoon cinnamon powder

4 cloves

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons honey


Combine all syrup ingredients in a saucepan and simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes.

Set aside to cool.

On a clean work surface, place a sheet of phyllo pastry and butter liberally with a brush.

Repeat the process with another 2 sheets, then sprinkle half of the nut mixture evenly and ‘scrunch’ with both hands (it should look like curtain folds).

Start a second piece of baklava, following the same procedure as above.

Place both pieces of baklava next to each other onto a buttered baking sheet.

Sprinkle with water and bake in a pre-heated, fan-assisted oven for 45 minutes at 160C.

Cold syrup must be poured over baklava as soon as it comes out of the oven as hot syrup will give a soggy product. Syrup should be made well in advance.

This version will give you all the taste and flavour of this classic pastry in a much lighter form.


Roddy Damalis is the author of two books, MY CY is a photographic journey through Cyprus, and MY LITTLE PLATES a guide to 100 adored recipes inspired by our beautiful island served over two decades at the beloved Ta Piatakia restaurant in Limassol. Roddy is a restaurateur, celebrity chef, food guru and consultant. He now operates My View, an exclusive private dining venue in his home. For more information and to purchase the books visit


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