Mrs Bailey’s Beef and Mushroom Noodles
(and no, you don’t have to use beef. Or mushrooms. Or even noodles)
At first glance, Mrs Bailey can seem like any other English cook abroad, reliably turning out the dishes she and countless generations before her have been raised on: pies and potatoes, meat and two veg, substantial puddings and cakes.
Appearances, of course, are deceptive, and always have been. All of that does lie within her repertoire, and her girls are duly grateful when the regular rotation brings them forth; but — like many another English cook before her — she has absorbed countless other techniques from all across the three worlds, whenever and wherever she has encountered them. Especially, she’s as keen to learn from the girls as they are to learn from her.
For example, there is always a well-seasoned wok in her kitchen, on standby for a staff meal or a private supper. She loves the convenience of it, as much as she loves the drama of a hot flame and ingredients flying high (for Mrs Bailey is very much a showman at heart, although she would never admit it). Few girls whose roots lie in the Far East have passed through the school without adding to her personal recipe collection, or introducing her to a new ingredient or a new technique.
She uses that wok to steam and to deep-fry, to braise and even to smoke — but most of all, of course, she brings it out for a stir-fry. Often it’ll be fried rice, of one sort or another — but often and often, she’ll be making noodles. Here’s one of her stand-bys. Honestly, it’s barely even a recipe: just a method, which you can mix and match at whim, as she does herself. We give no quantities here, she and I; we don’t know your appetite. Use pork or shrimp or chicken — or a mixture — in lieu of the beef; or leave the meat out altogether, and substitute according to your pleasure. Use any variety of mushroom, or none. Use fish sauce as well as soy, or else instead. Add chillies in any form, if you like it spicy; or else put hot sauce on the table, if your guest does. You get the idea. Even noodles aren’t obligatory; rice works just as well. Or make it without either, and served with a steamed green vegetable. Still filling, still delicious, no carbs. It is entirely up to you, as it always ought to be.
Two portions of noodles, cooked and cooled
A bunch of scallions, or green/spring onions, sliced
A tender cut of beef, sliced thin (or use cold cooked beef, or any other protein)
Baby king trumpet mushrooms (or shiitake, or cremini, or…), halved
Ginger, finely chopped
Set your wok to heat over a highish flame.
When it’s hot, add a dash of sesame oil, and fry off the beef until it hits your preferred state of doneness. Set it aside on a warm plate.
A dash more oil, and toss in the mushrooms. Again, stir-fry until done, and add to the beef.
A dash more oil, and in go the scallions. Sizzle. Garlic, ginger. Sizzle. Back in go the beef and mushrooms, and then add the noodles. Sprinkle with sesame oil and soy, mix all together, and stir-fry until hot, and you’re done.