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After the 1939-45 war, Burgess spent a number of years in the colonial territories of Malaya and Brunei working as an education officer. Here are two recipes from his time there, which he recalls with some affection.
‘Even in the working-class Lancashire of my boyhood there was an acknowledgement that the British Empire existed, and that good food came out of the East. I knew curries and nasi goreng long before I went to Malaysia and still find them the best things to serve at a dinner party that does not share my echt Lancashire tastes.
Nasi goreng means fried rice, and once, on a Dutch liner Djakarta-bound, I was served just that: rice fried, with an insolent fried egg on top. The Malays are not so literal. First boil your rice and, as the cookbooks say, reserve it. The fry in oil, preferably in a wok, small morsels of beef. Add green peppers sliced, and fragments of hot red peppers. Add peeled shrimps. Make, in a separate frying pan, a rough omelette. Roughly chop it and add it to the beef and shrimps. Then add your boiled rice to the fry-up and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon.’
‘Curries are more complicated, but my basic one is simple. In hot oil fry the same kind of bite-sized beef with chopped onions and plenty of crushed garlic. Add curry powder of whatever strength you prefer – hot Madras is my choice. The powder must begin to burn and the burning be allayed by the addition of an Italian tomato puree. Turn down the heat. Add sliced apples. Add not only lemon juice but thinly-cut lemon peel. Add a spoonful of marmalade. Avoid, however, making the mixture too fruity. A couple of sliced potatoes may well go in: nothing is more satisfying than a curried potato. Serve with the rice you have already prepared for the nasi goreng, reheated over the slowly cooking curry. Do not forget your sambals – saucers, or the compartments of a sambal dish, charged with chopped raw onion, banana slices, home-made chutneys, pickled cabbage, what you will. Never serve wine with a curry – a waste of its taste – though a glass or two of champagne may be offered before it. A strong bottled beer – preferably Anchor or Tiger imported from Singapore – is the best accompaniment.’
Harpers and Queen, 1990