The exact recipe for this wonderful and quite simple pie from Thessaly was given to me by the late Loula Mpaimpa, Costas’ aunt, one of the best cooks I have ever encountered. I deeply regret that I failed to record more recipes and advice from her!
I suggest you make the custard 1-2 days in advance, let it cool and refrigerate. Assemble and bake the pie a couple of hours before you start serving the meal, so that you can bring the pie to the table while still warm.
For a deep 9-inch pie dish, 8-10 servings
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 1/2 cans warm water
1/3 cup fine semolina flour
1 three-inch cinnamon stick
2 egg yolks
About 1/3 cup light olive oil, or sunflower oil
One 3-inch piece of lemon zest
6 homemade or packaged phyllo sheets, defrosted according to package instructions
1/3 cup ground almonds
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
In a saucepan, preferably non-stick, pour the milk and then rinse the can 2 1/2 times with warm water, as sweetened milk is very sticky and thick. While whisking, add semolina and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, over medium-high heat. Continue to stir for about 12 minutes, until the custard thickens. Remove from the heat, and stir in the egg yolks, one at a time. Cover the surface with parchment paper or cling film, and let cool to room temperature.
(up to this point custard can and it is better to be prepared in advance, and refrigerated for up to 2 days).
Preheat oven to 380F with a baking dish or pizza stones at the bottom rack.
Pour the olive oil in a bowl together with the lemon zest. Lightly brush bottom and sides of pie dish. Lay one phyllo sheet leaving at least a 2-inch overhanging, brush with oil, sprinkle with some almonds and continue with the rest of the sheets, making sure that you brush every second sheet with oil and sprinkle with almonds.
Spread the cold custard over the phyllo and even the surface with a spatula. Cut the surplus overhanging leaving about 2 inches all around, and fold over the filling (see picture) to create the border. Brush border with some olive oil.
Place the pie dish on the heated baking sheet or stones and bake for 10 minutes.
Mix egg yolk and milk and pour in the center, over the custard, brushing also the phylo boarder.
Reduce heat to 350 and continue baking for another 35-40 minutes or more, until the top is golden brown. If it browns too soon, cover loosely with aluminum foil.
Cool on a rack for 15-20 minutes and serve warm, or at room temperature.