I clearly remember the first time I tried bougatsa, at everyone’s favourite Greek restaurant Perama in Sydney’s inner-west suburb of Petersham (check out their new website, with some of my photos on it!). I’d just eaten my body weight in delicious Greek food, but there was still miraculously room for dessert. The filo wrapped custard parcel was so pretty, delicately flavoured with mandarin and just perfect with the accompanying caramel baklava ice cream. It was a revelation! On subsequent visits, the bougatsa made an appearance every time, but David flavoured them using different seasonal fruits, like passionfruit which really worked well and made this a delicious as well as versatile dessert.
I had some leftover filo pastry from the pomegranate baklava I made recently, and I remembered seeing a recipe for bougatsa in Gourmet Traveller a few months ago. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try it for myself, and what better flavour than rhubarb and custard! The baked semolina custard was a breeze to make. The rolling took a little bit of getting used to at first, but soon it became a methodical kind of process, one step at a time, and I found it quite theraputic, like making pasta.
The little parcels bake up beautifully to a lovely golden brown, with a nice crunch due to the crisp filo pastry. The rhubarb is a lovely addition, and goes nicely with the hint of rosewater in the custard. This recipe is a great starting point for any variety of flavour you can think of – the custard can be modified to include lemon zest or orange blossom water if you like, or perhaps you’d like to try adding raspberry or passionfruit? The choices are endless! One day I’d like to try this recipe with home made filo pastry, but in the meantime it was a lovely and easy dish to make for afternoon tea or dessert!
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller
• 1 litre milk
• Scraped seeds of 1 vanilla bean
• 220g (1 cup) caster sugar)
• 90g (1/2 cup) fine semolina
• 4 eggs
• 220g butter, softened
• 2 teaspoons rosewater (optional)
• 12 sheets filo pastry
• 2 thin sticks rhubarb
• Pure icing sugar, to serve
Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F). Combine the milk, vanilla seeds and half of the sugar in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat to dissolve sugar and bring just to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, scatter over the semolina and whisk constantly until mixture just comes to the boil and thickens. Remove from heat.
Meanwhile, whisk eggs and remaining sugar in a bowl until frothy, then gradually add to semolina mixture, whisking well to combine. Add 60g butter and rosewater, stir to combine and pour into rectangular cake tin lined with non-stick baking paper. Bake for 1½ hours or until firm. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until cold. Turn custard out onto a work surface. Cut into 12 even pieces and set aside.
Preheat the oven to to 180°C (350°F). Melt remaining butter. Cut rhubarb into sticks the same length as the custard squares. Working with one sheet of filo at a time, place on a work surface with shortest edge closest to you. Brush with butter and place a piece of semolina custard centered on the edge closest to you. Place 2-3 pieces of rhubarb on top. Fold pastry over custard, brush with butter and roll to enclose. Place seam-side down on a baking tray lined with baking paper and line top with butter. Repeat with remaining custard, filo and rhubarb.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Cool slightly and sift over icing sugar liberally before serving.