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Food by Breda Murphy

Gordo sings a song for good cooking and happy, happy food in the Ribble Valley

Written by . Published on January 3rd 2008.

Food by Breda Murphy

There is a place in County Cork, Ireland that Gordo has always wanted to go. It’s called the Ballymaloe Hotel. It is a magical place, that has trained many cooks. Not chefs, cooks. There is a difference and generally it’s about taking the finest ingredients from the land, sea or air and cooking them beautifully, with little mucking about.

It sent him into mental rhapsodies not equalled since telling all his school pals about Jackie Laughton's snogging techniques many, many years ago.

There is a place in the Ribble Valley that Gordo went to before Christmas. It’s called Breda Murphy’s. It isn’t as magical as the Ballymaloe Hotel, but, blimey, Gordo didn’t realise that Breda, a delightful woman and sublime cook, had trained at that magical place over the water.

The first time he tasted Breda’s chicken liver pâté, he realised that the title of the dish wasn’t a bit of Irish blarney. It was utterly fabulous. Smooth and buttery with a string quartet of gentle seasoning tickling the palette in the background, Gordo realised the description, ‘Ballymaloe chicken liver pâté with Cumberland sauce and toasted bread’ (£5.95), was an absolutely faithful and honest facsimile of the Ballymaloe recipe, cooked many times during the eighties by Gordo for his dinner parties.

He has lost his recipe, but if you want to try an utterly simple, easy to tackle and better than any chef in the North can produce Ballymaloe alternative, Gordo has placed a link at the bottom of this article. This pushes you thourgh to Darina Allen’s recipe for her smoked mackerel pâté on her Ballymaloe website. You don’t have to go to Frank Hederman over in County Cork to get the mackerel, as Darina recommends,a good fishmonger here will get you the dogs from our waters.

Breda’s place is a small villa tucked in next to Whalley’s railway bridge, painted white. It isn’t a restaurant, it’s a bit like a very smart café which doubles as a lively deli with the hustle and bustle of a cookery school with, finally, an outside catering section hanging onto it’s britches. With all this going on in a space the size of a small detached house you can be forgiven for marvelling at the utterly precise, pleasant and prompt service from the staff. Breda herself would be an easy shoe-in for Mary Poppins with an improved voice: those County Carlow silky tones could be listened to by Gordo for a number of hours.

Salmon and prawn laksa with coriander naan, a mild Indonesian fish soup, (£5.00) was clear, lemon grass, chipped with the odd little tickle of bird-eye chilli and fantastic, big fat juicy prawny prawns doing a lazy back stroke with the small chunks of just-so cooked salmon. Gordo hasn’t had a better laksa in a very long time.

Breda’s fish pie (£8.95) is legend in the Ribble Valley, on three visits he hasn’t been able to prize it away from his companion. It looks like a right little delight. On the last occasion, Gordo had the roast breast of turkey with a ballontine of leg meat, citrus stuffing and cranberry compote (bit naughty here, forgot to get the price -you’re fired, Ed).

Now, it ain’t never going to be as good as Gordo’s truffle-stuffed Norfolk bronze that has been arguing with Mrs Broadfeather’s cat over the leftovers she leaves outside the farmhouse back door for the previous three months, but this one did a good job. The stand out moment was the citrus stuffing. Gordo is going to beg for the recipe and might let you lot have it. Not too keen on the ballontine, mind you, a bit ‘loose’ to Gordo’s taste

Puddings are what you would expect from an Irish cook. Big, gooey, yummy and comforting. The traditional Yorkshire parkin with vanilla bean Anglaise (£4.50) could have fed an army. Hot, sticky gingery parkin with a perfect crème cooling it as it slipped down Gordo’s gullet. It sent him into mental rhapsodies not equalled since telling all his school pals about Jackie Laughton's snogging techniques many, many years ago. Bloody fab. Listen to this one. ‘Cherry and almond tart with home made black forest ice cream’ (£4.50). Get in.

The wine list is well balanced, from £10.50 up to £35 or so. A glass of Merlot was a cracker at £5.50 for 250 ml, Puerto Viejo Rioja Crianza 2001 (£16.90) boxes well above its weight.

Breda Murphy’s is well worth the visit. The place is charming, but a little harsh in a way. Given everything that Breda herself has achieved in her career Gordo wonders why she doesn’t get a bigger and more comfortable place. But then, she would have to step into the pockets of the bankers in a big way. That would strangle her. Forgive the lack of table linen people, Breda needs you to come in, close your eyes and taste this beautifully simple food. You will be charmed and, you will go back. Gordo has three times.

A Gordo Go

That Ballymaloe Mackeral Pate? Click here

Breakdown:8/10 Food
4/5 Service
3/5 Ambience
Address: Breda Murphy’s
Abbots Court 41 Station Rd, Whalley
Nr. Clitheroe
01254 823446
Tues-Sat 10am - 6pm

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Food LikerJanuary 3rd 2008.

really nice touch at this place. If you are a single

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