Kolokithopita with Milka – Kos, Greece

“I don’t like to repeat myself. I am always using different materials and techniques to challenge myself”. Milka is an impressionist artist; through her work, she seeks to recall textures and corners of objects. Citing transparent materials among her favourite mediums to work with, and lamps as her favourite objects to create, much of Milka’s work reflects her love of nature, while simultaneously symbolising her passion for incorporating recycled materials; “I don’t believe in throwing anything away”. The unique colours, textures and forms evident in Milka’s work, are an extension of her personality traits; vibrancy, dynamism and strength.

Originally from Serbia, Milka studied art in a Belgrade college; which laid the foundations of her knowledge of many techniques, ranging from Fresco and Icon painting, to mosaics. Pointing to an artwork on her lounge room wall, Milka reflects, “I started painting chestnuts because my school was in a chestnut forest”. Milka’s house is decorated with her creations; sculptures, wall mosaics, textile art and paintings, many of which were made in her studio/shop in Kolokotroni Street, Kos Town, where she has been practising for the past 11 years. In addition to her shop, Milka has collaborated with Kos’ creative community, including The Slaughter House Theatre for which she made costumes, accessories and stage art. Milka’s personal work has been exhibited in many venues on the island, as well as the National Gallery of Serbia.

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“I feel home here. I don’t feel a foreigner here”. Milka, arrived in Kos 19 years ago on a working holiday, and was originally painting portraits of hotel guests. It was in Kos, where Milka met her husband James, who was working as water sports instructor. Their home is very much a testament to their partnership and creativity, showcasing both of their work, Milka as a visual artist, and James as a carpenter. Watching the two of them prepare the pumpkin for the pie was a demonstration of their synergy. Grating, peeling, slicing, both their actions are a continuation from where the other paused, their communication is not only verbal, but observational, and through purely just knowing.

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Milka’s sense of feeling home is very much synonymous with her close-knit community in the island, a feeling which she considers reminiscent of her grandmother’s village in Serbia. Milka jokes about often being late to her shop as she bumps into so many people her way to work. Before moving to their current house, slightly inland of Kos Town where they live with their two sons, Milka and James resided a few minutes walk from the beach. However, the short distance would frequently transform into an hour, as the trip would involve saying hello to many people on the way. However, Milka insists that privacy is accessible on the island; “You learn how to disappear here. You know the places to go when you want that”.

Milka’s Kolokithopita is both a tribute to her grandmother, a beautiful and wise woman, and a symbolic approach to her creative practice. Milka discussed her maternal grandmother’s influence as she cleaned the inside of the pumpkin with her hands; “this is the way my grandmother used to do it. We would make this pie at Christmas time. I put honey and cinnamon inside which is something my grandmother wouldn’t do. But my grandmother made her own raisins and pastry, and the pumpkin was from her garden”. While retaining the basis of her grandmother’s recipe for the pie, Milka is adamant about the inclusion of her own additions and methods. Constantly seeking new opportunities to defy habits, Milka considers change a friend, and repetition an enemy;  “When I try food, I like to cook it my way. I like to recreate it. I will never ask how many quantities. I don’t believe in recipes because I don’t like making the same things”.

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Kolokithopita – Pumpkin Pie 

Ingredients:

Filo pastry

1 Pumpkin (medium sized), peeled, cleaned and grated

1.5 Cups of chopped walnuts

1.5 Cups of raisins

3 Tablespoons of honey

5 Tablespoons of white sugar

1 Tablespoon of cinnamon

Olive Oil or Vegetable Oil

*The pumpkin can be  pre-cooked for a creamy texture, however Milka prefers the pumpkin raw.

Method:

In a large bowl, combine with hands: pumpkin, walnuts, raisins, honey, sugar and cinnamon

Sprinkle flour and a little oil in the bottom of a large pan

On a flat surface, sprinkle flour and lay out two sheets of Filo pastry

Drizzle oil over the Filo pastry

Spead a few handfuls of the pumpkin mixture, roll firmly and place in the tray.

Continue this process until the pan is full of rolled Filo pieces

Place two sheets of Filo pastry on top of and sprinkle a little oil

Bake at 180’C for 30-40 mins until crispy and golden on top

Remove from oven, cover with a tea towel and allow to cool before serving

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