Our Verdict: The Magic Fridge

Kirstin: This is a gem of a book.

Maureen: Yes. All the foundation recipes, or at least that’s what I call them, are very good. It’s quite a clever concept– figure out how to make these good recipes and then work from there.

Kirstin: You do have to read and pay attention. There’s all sorts of tips and interesting suggestions in the book too, which I liked.

Maureen: It’s a unique idea, one that we haven’t really seen before. I really like the idea how these basic recipes can then ripple into other recipes.

Kirstin: Very good idea. It feels very French, but that’s no bad thing.

Maureen: You can feel the French influence, though there’s other things in there too.

Kirstin: To have a whole book of French cooking would be overwhelming, but this is a lovely mixture.

Maureen: I agree.

Kirstin: It’s obviously not completely French because he’s got recipes for things like lemon curd and pizza. For example, in his recipe for red curry paste he uses sun dried tomatoes and that seems odd to me. And it has anchoives, too.

Maureen: He loves an anchovy.

Kirstin: He’s obviously going for the whole unami thing. So the curry paste was interesting.

Maureen: The cheese sauce I made for my cauliflower cheese was the best cheese sauce I’ve ever had. I couldn’t stop eating it when it was on the stove.

Kirstin: It worked. Clever man. But we both have a beef about the design.

Maureen: Indeed we do. I just think it would have been so much better if it had a plain classy cover with a white background, a classic font and a different picture. As it is, with all the doodles throughout and the primary-coloured pages, it just makes it seem like a kids cookbook, which it definitely is not. It just goes to show you that design is important.

Kirstin: Still a gem of a book, though.


“The Magic Fridge”
Overall Grade (A- F): B (Kirstin)  B+ (It would get an A but for the design) (Maureen)
Best recipes: Kirstin: Roast and braise chicken went down very well indeed. Maureen: Cauliflower cheese. It was the best I ever had.
Grade for Photography (A-F):  C. Pretty uninspiring.
Any disasters? Kirstin: No. Maureen: No.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: Bookshelf.  Maureen: Bookshelf, for the cheese sauce recipe alone.                                                                                                                    Would You Give This Book to a Friend?: No. If I was going to give a book, I’d give them a different book because it has to look nice as well. There’s so many pretty cookbooks out there.

Our Verdict: The Magic Fridge

“Red Chicken Curry” from “The Magic Fridge”

Kirstin: I’m always up for anything Thai and was curious about this recipe: I’ve made many Thai pastes over the years but this one had some unusual ingredients including roasted red peppers. You can see from the picture what a beautiful paste it made; gorgeous red and a beautiful consistency. Later in the day it was time to cook it up. And again, the method was unusual. For instance, I’ve never heard the word “poach” being used when making a Thai curry. But then again Alex Mackay is coming from a background of French Cuisine so it’s possible I have been poaching for years without realising it. The formula of his precise method (which involved adding paste throughout the making of the curry) and magic fridge paste made a totally winning combination. We ate the lot and even the kids remarked how much they loved it. It tasted incredibly authentic, bringing back memories of Thailand. And yes. I will be poaching my curries from now on.

“Red Chicken Curry” from “The Magic Fridge”

“Pizza” from “The Magic Fridge”

An important thing to know about our house: Pizza is a religion.

(As it happens, this is also true at Kirstin’s house, which is one of the many reasons why we are such good friends. We swap pizza tips, such as the time she told me about the steel plate for the bottom of her oven she bought for Tom to make better pizza. I then sourced my own type for Tim, which he got for Christmas. Everyone wins.)

We take it very, very seriously. Tim is the Pizza Maker in Charge, but as late I have found that I need to take over this serious responsibility as work demands have sent him half a world away until December. Tim now has an extremely complicated dough and yeast system that I can’t even begin to fathom, so I was quite happy to see this recipe for pizza in Magic Fridge.

The recipe is fantastic. Good instructions and the dough turned out great. Where things went horribly wrong– and this truly was operator error, rather than the fault of the cookbook– was when it came time to bake them. I was distracted by “Strictly Come Dancing”, so I just set the timer for 10 minutes and left the kitchen.  This was a mistake.

When I returned, the pizza on the top shelf was burned on the top, the pizza on the aforementioned steel plate was burned on the bottom, but the pizza in the middle was one for Goldlilocks because it was Just Right. But I vowed to fix the problem.

So when I made pizza the next time, I put the timer on for only 8 minutes and I didn’t leave the kitchen. I also checked on them periodically during the baking time. Guess what? They were perfect*. Another win for “The Magic Fridge.”

*Still not as good as Tim’s, but you can’t have everything. He just needs to come back and resume his pizza-making responsibilities.

“Pizza” from “The Magic Fridge”

“Sticky soy, honey and ginger chicken with noodles” from “The Magic Fridge”

Kirstin: This was absolutely delicious in every way. It wasn’t your usual stir fry. I cooked the chicken first (having made the glaze) and then all the vegetables went into the glaze along with the chicken into the oven. And finally the noodles which were beautifully flavoured by the glaze and juices from the vegetables. Both children devoured it and I can vouch that the leftovers were also delicious. I can’t think why I haven’t made noodles like this before to be honest.

“Sticky soy, honey and ginger chicken with noodles” from “The Magic Fridge”

“Cauliflower Cheese” from “The Magic Fridge”

Cauliflower cheese is a decidedly British dish, and one, I have to say, I fell in love with nearly 20 years ago when I arrived here and never stopped loving. One look at this search of Cookbook a Month archives will show you how much we love cauliflower cheese and variations thereof. It’s a winner.

For this recipe, you start by making the cheese sauce. If you’re at all nervous about making a roux– the foundation of all good cheese sauces– the directions here are clear and helpful. Also– and I would fail as a reviewer if I didn’t mention this– it produced the best cheese sauce I’ve ever had in my life. Honestly. It’s not as if this recipe is all that different from any other cheese sauce I’ve ever made, but there was something about it that made it special. It evoked strong memories of dining in Paris for me and I couldn’t stop stealing spoonfuls of it while I went about making the rest of dinner.

Once the cheese sauce is done (or if you’re following the philosophy of The Magic Fridge and you’ve taken it out of your refrigerator), you then get on with the cauliflower cheese portion of it. Another great tip out of this was to boil the cauliflower and then roast it for a short amount of time. This step prevented the cauliflower from softening too much and also gave it a bit of a nutty flavour. This was genius. An extra step, to be sure, but worth it.

Magic Fridge Cauliflower Cheese: For The Win.

“Cauliflower Cheese” from “The Magic Fridge”

“Chicken leg roast’n’braise with peppers, onion and lemon butter” from “The Magic Fridge”

Kirstin: I have to admit I wasn’t quite sure how the kiddos were going to deal with this. They prefer chicken breast to all other forms of meat, but the recipe looked so good, I wanted to try it anyway. And I’m glad I did. The recipe used a really interesting way of cooking the meat on top of the vegetables, with just a layer of foil in between. After cooking it like this for some time, the foil and accumulated juices were added to the vegetables, along with the chicken. Very clever. I had to cook it a little longer than indicated, but I blame my grill for that rather than the recipe.

Miles absolutely adored this recipe. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times he told me he was enjoying it as he ate dinner. And Ella devoured the lot and the potatoes. I had seconds and thirds of the potatoes as they were tasty from all the yummy chicken stock.

I’m not sure that the lemon butter was entirely necessary though which is no bad thing as it means I can rustle it up any time, adding a little lemon zest, juice and butter in its place. A total winner of a recipe and perfect for autumnal and winter evenings. Big love.

“Chicken leg roast’n’braise with peppers, onion and lemon butter” from “The Magic Fridge”

“Salsa Verde” from “The Magic Fridge”

This idea behind “The Magic Fridge” is simple, but ingenuous: you make a large quantity of some type of “magic” ingredient– in this case, salsa verde– and then the cookbook provides you with a variety of recipes in which you can use the ingredient.

This blog is no stranger to the joys of salsa verde. It’s been used several times in a variety of cookbooks, all with success. It seems it’s best paired with fish, but I also could see it being used as a nice dip for vegetables (and indeed, that’s one of the recommendations in the “The Magic Fridge.”)

This recipe did not seem wildly different from other salsa verde recipes I’ve used and it was good. However, it should be noted that the quantities it produces is MASSIVE. While I know this makes sense from the book’s perspective– since the whole point is to make a lot of something and then have it to hand to use in other things– the yield for this recipe is so large (600 grams worth) it would take this family a very, very long time to get through it, especially since you can’t freeze it.

However, I am good at math– or at least I can half the output of a recipe when I need to do it– so that’s what I did here. I still had plenty left over for several different recipes [watch this space] but not so much that it didn’t go bad. I’m looking forward to trying it with other foods too until I’ve used all of it.

“Salsa Verde” from “The Magic Fridge”

“Crisp-skinned Salmon with Pepper Chutney and Olives” from “The Magic Fridge”

Kirstin: I really enjoyed that smug feeling on my Monday morning, knowing that I had made this pepper chutney ready for use over the next few days. And of course, red pepper is so pretty and smells so good when it’s cooking which I think just added to my smugometer reading. The salmon itself was very straightforward. I haven’t fried salmon for a while now and I had not realised how much I missed the slight crunch you get on the flesh when it’s cooked like this. Everyone enjoyed it. And bonus for me as I’ve taken the extra peppers into work and am enjoying them with salad and a variety of grains for lunch.

“Crisp-skinned Salmon with Pepper Chutney and Olives” from “The Magic Fridge”

Cookbook of the month, October 2017: The Magic Fridge by Alex Mackay

Kirstin: Thanks to Bloomsbury Books for giving us these review copies of “The Magic Fridge.” But we wouldn’t spent a month cooking from them if we didn’t like the looks of it.

Maureen: That’s absolutely true. But thanks Bloomsbury Books!

Kirstin: I’ve got to say that the cover looks like something from when my daughter was 5 years old and had a lot of fairy books.

Maureen: If only it came with some stickers, just like the fairy books.

Kirstin: Exactly. I was expecting it to have some stickers inside.

Maureen: But the food looks good. The idea is that there are basic foundation recipes, like for chocolate mousse, lemon curd, ratatouille, and then you use that recipe in another dish. Thus, the magic fridge. If you have these foundation recipes to hand in your frig, there’s loads you can make.  It certainly is a more creative approach to cooking.

Kirstin: And he’s got more than five ingredients in each of the recipes, so we’re off to a winning start already.

Cookbook of the month, October 2017: The Magic Fridge by Alex Mackay