Thursday, 30 June 2011

Moving on ..


The tomatoes are glorious this year. Especially good for the tomato chapter so if you've got a copy of Prepped promise to make the spiced tomatoes Jam on page 128 .. and the tomatoes sauce is delicious as a cold soup.

Well.. the year to write Prepped is up . I feel as though I am ready now for the next stage. I can't tell you all how much I've loved writing Prepped. I've learnt so much a met so many amazing people.

It's been seriously good fun and whilst I don't want to dispel the romance of it all I feel it is only fair to say that it has been the hardest thing I've ever done. Meeting the deadlines and writing Prepped was all consuming and trust me ... it tested all my relationships and pushed my health and waist line to the absolute boundaries!

As I set forth on this adventure I honestly believed I would get Prepped in the eyes of the foodie world up there in the best seller list with ease... I mean It is really fabulous and I was totally convinced it's uniqueness was enough to consider retiring as TV deals and invitations to consult on the menu for the royal wedding were going to come flooding in !

Please don't get me wrong .. Prepped is really selling well which is the scary bit when you consider all the hours of PR and bloggiing and a BBC Radio show, a Newspaper column and a huge Twitter following it's the truth to say that the royalties alone are not nearly enough to pay the bills. I won't say I wan't warned by by other far more experienced and successful authors then me. I was told that that writing on its own is simply not a way to make a good living, despite being such a lovely way to live ones life. . it's financially challenging is the what one seriously famous Author said to me ! The phrase I kept hearing was that is is necessary to supplement you income. . but being ever the optimist I ignored the advise in the hope I would prove everyone wrong. In case my husband is reading this ( Alastair sit down ... !) I'm not always right and so I am going back to work after the summer holidays are over.

I'm not however, going back to my old job. I am starting a whole new chapter in my life with a new set of specialist skills I shall be going back into Management Consultancy within the food, drink and hospitality industry. I already have some commercial recipe development commissions and I've now got several magazines I am writing for.

With the regional and local BBC Radio food shows, my fabulous weekly newspaper column in the Chronicle & Echo, coupled with Prepped I have every reason to believe that all the skills in the highly successful commercial career I once had are transferable .. so onward in my foodie adventures as a journalist, Food Consultant and BBC food journalist .. at

I want to say to you all thank you all from the bottom of my heart for following the adventures of writing a recipe book

........ Hooray for following your dreams!



PS this is not the last post of Prepped at all and of course I shall keep updating .. but to follow my day to day journalism and Broadcasting then is the place to go

.. and yes a 2nd recipe book is being worked on .. so I shall be testing again

Monday, 27 June 2011

Dash and Grab Cookie Manoeuvre


I've a busy few months coming up, and indeed this week is no exception. On Friday I was in both Rushden and Kingsthorpe Waitrose's signing Prepped. Saturday I was in Cambridge at Waterstones doing the same.

I decided that the best way to entice people to me is to bribe them over with food .. so I made the chocolate cookies from page 206 . I must say in the main people where delightful, although there were two people, separately, who literally walked up to my table without as much as hello and in a sort of dash and grab maneuver they helped themselves to a large handful of cookies, and made away in haste without a solitary word!

Well ... I was in such shock I didn't say anything ! Although perhaps excuse me .. but you left one! at the top of my voice was what I should have shouted after them!

.. Still ... I guess you have to be prepared to meet all sorts of people .. but truthfully it's been really fun, especially to meet some of the lovely people ( such as Kelly below in the photo) who have been following me !

After the signing in Waterstones I met up with a fabulous foodie and good friend, Douglas Blyde and ate one of the most delicious meals I've eaten in a long time at Alimentum in Hills Road. Look out for the blog post about this planned for later week!

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Friday, 24 June 2011

Afternoon Tea

I've been about and about fetching strawberries from Mr Troops to have for afternoon tea.. I love it - is just so easy and yet it has quaintness to it. Rose patterned china cups, cupcakes, dainty egg and cress sandwiches, Battenberg cake of course fresh scones with clotted cream, a large dollop of strawberry jam and a steaming pot of fresh tea. I love throwing my red checked tablecloth on the table and having the children come in from school to sit and tell me about their day whilst tucking in to this very British spread. The recipe doubles easily to make more ( I use it for my the topping to my plum cobbler recipe.) You can swap out the flavour at a moments notice, leave out the sugar and add 70g of parmesan for a savory cheese scone, thrown I a handful of sultana’s or add a teaspoon of fresh lavender for a delicious twist and serve with plum jam and a pot earl grey tea instead.

Makes 8
Prep time 5 minutes
Cooking time 20 minutes
Freeze Yes

225g self-raising flour
75g butter, chilled, cut in small pieces
50g Vanilla Sugar
¼ tsp salt
125ml buttermilk mixed with 2 tbs of freshly squeezed lemon juice ( ordinary milk will do)
3–4 tbsp milk
Extra flour, for dusting
Vanilla Sugar, for sprinkling
1 free range egg, beaten, for the glaze
Preheat the oven to 180˚C/gas mark 4.
Put the flour, butter, salt and sugar into a bowl. Mix well. Make a well in the centre and add the buttermilk. Bring the mixture together to form a dough. If the dough seems a bit too dry, add a little more buttermilk, a teaspoon at a time.
Turn out onto a floured work surface and use your hands to form a 2.5cm round. Cut out shapes from this, depending on your preference, and put them on a baking tray.
Glaze the scones with the beaten egg and bake for 18–20 minutes and sprinkle with sugar.
Cool on a wire rack. If you want to freeze these scones do so as soon as they are cool.
Note: Scones are best enjoyed the same day.

Linked recipe
You can turn an every day scone into something really special by replacing the Vanilla sugar in the recipe for Lavender sugar. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

I've been Nominated for the Observer Monthly Food Awards!


I don't generally go for awards and I certainly had no intention of going for the Observer Monthly Food Awards - Why? I suppose it makes me feel judged and so I avoid these kind of things, however that said I was tickled pink to get a tweet from a lovely lady called Jules who runs a supper club ( a fabulous supper club I might add) called The Secret Supper Society. The Tweet read

Vanessa I have nominated Prepped for the best cookery book in the Observer Monthly Food Awards. This... yes .. this tweet meant more to me that winning it. Just being nominated made my day .. Jules you made me feel like I had won, as has everyone else who has tweeted me since has done the same.

Will I canvass support? Well yes I'll admit I've asked a few friends to vote.. I even asked my husband *laughing* but this time it's not the winning that matters .. as far as I am concerned I have already been judged and won by the very fact I've been nominated.

The panel of judges is impressive including Nigel Slater, Allan Jenkins, Tim Hayward, Jay Rayner, Jo Barnes and Jason Atherton and Gareth Grundy. A seriously impressive line up of extraordinary talent.

Simply by participating in voting in these awards and picking your favourite foodie personalities of the year you can win a huge assortment of prize. I've voted for Helen at Fuss Free Flavours as my favourite blog of the year.

I wish all participants the very best of luck and if you have bought a copy of Prepped and feel a desire to vote for me then click here before the 24th June ... . but whatever the outcome ... I am already celebrating!



a list of prizes include

A wine lover's trip to Bordeaux 

• A meal for four at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal 

• An overnight stay and Michelin-starred lunch at The Manor House in Wiltshire 

• A year's supply of Riverford Organic vegetables 

• A Gourmet Picnic hamper (for two winners) 

• A Weber One Touch premium BBQ with tool set 

• A personal wine tutorial and dinner at Orrery in Marylebone 

• Afternoon tea at Bar Boulud 

• Tickets to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition plus dinner at the Royal Academy restaurant 

• A year's supply of CafĂ©direct coffee and Presso coffee-maker 

• Harvey Jones chopping boards (for 10 winners)

• A tour of London's Sipsmith distillery for 10, plus a bottle each to take home

For more information about the prizes including the

full terms and conditions click here.

The power of Twitter

For those of you who are fortunate enough to live in the east of England there is a fabulous evening show that covers the whole of the region and it rocks .. it's the Sue Marchant show and she is one fabulous lady I can tell you!

Sue asked me to do a regular slot on her show called NOT THE FRIDAY NIGHT FRY UP and I cook up something yummy to get you in the kitchen at the weekend. I love it !

So last night I was invited to chat for an hour with Douglas Blyde about fine dinning and wine.. as well as to tell everyone that I am signing books in Waterstones in Cambridge this Saturday 25th from 3pm .. which of course I clean forgot to mention until the very last minute as I was having so much fun !

Well on the way to the show Douglas tweeted .. I'm not 100% sure what he said but when he arrived in the studio there was a hot from the oven cake waiting for him for one of his twitter followers @bunnybanter - Raspberry and Mulberry jam filled sponge overlaid with sweet orange - it was delicious and you can read more about it here.

Needless to say that this was a perfect demonstration of the power of twitter.. one tweet and there is cake .. and now I'm wondering about all manner of other things I might request for next time I am the radio ... !

Prepped Launch


It’s taken me a surprisingly long time to write about the Prepped Launch. I think partially because I was so overwhelmed by it all I wasn’t sure where to start and then I seemed to have what I describe as a crash afterwards. I could hardly will myself out of bed on the Monday or Tuesday, and if I hadn’t got three children I’, not sure I would have made it out of the duvets for a week. When I mentioned how I felt to another author she said it was a common reaction and I have to admit it’s not the first time .. but oh what a launch ! .. but it was the most thrilling three days.

I’m not going to write reams and reams. I think the photo’s tell a story but for some unknown reason I have not been able to load them all up here ( very frustrating I must say ) .. so I have picked a few out to give you a taste and you will have to look a the others 80 photo's of Northampton here and 52 pictures of the Rococo launch here. It was amazing to meet everyone, .. it was emotional .. to say the least and putting faces to names was so lovely !!

The first Launch was local to me at Aunty Ruth’s in Northampton, the next day we launched in London at Rococo on Motcombe Street and then the following day we launched in Waitrose .. .. a three dayer !

There were some fabulous Blog posts about the day (and I shall add them in here later today) :-

In the mean time.. there are so many people to thank. My Publishers how to Books, my parents, friends, Preparratti and PR Katie as well as my Editor Jamie, Book designer Ian and my husband Alastair. Special thanks to Lea, Helen and Ruth, Jayne and Claire and Ren ... Thank you... .. it hardly feels enough to write or say .. but we did it.. we are Prepped .. !

PS In case you are wondering about the photo below ..this is is Helen from FussfreeFlavour - it was the only way I could get all the cakes to London on a train but you know that wonderful British sense of affection that we have .. and how much did I laugh at then end of the day as she made fun of my trolly? !!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Lamb Kebab and My Activist Blog Post


I haven't got around to writing about the Prepped Launch last week. I think it may be down to the fact I can't quite believe that it is finally launched and that I have almost crashed in exhaustion. It's not that I am ill .. I am just so very very tired. It's like a hangover but with out the fun from the night before. I will write about it next week. .. in the meantime I decided to have a few days off. Perhaps it is the fact that I have no deadlines or stress that my junkie adrenaline glands need to keep me going. Whatever them reason it's like I am walking through treacle to get through my day.

Time out .. so I took the children out and had a picnic yesterday afternoon.

I love picnics. but the spot where these photos' were taken is under threat .. and it makes me really mad .. so watch this video .. and this space to see if the large corporate gets to bulldoze through and build a housing estate on this idilic spot. .. you may yet see me on TV not necessary cooking but probably chained to a JCB!

More information can be found here

.. Deep breath .. and I shall get down off my orange box .. ahhh .. breath.

Therapy should always include a picnic and there is something eternally romantic about setting off to eat outside in the sunshine, but what I really love doing is picking he children up from school on a summers evening and heading off to have a picnic tea. I make these kebabs in the morning and take a pack of salad, pitta bread and a picnic basket with me in a basket. Stir some mint into Greek yogurt and accompany with mango chutney and you have a delicious kebab infused with spices to eat as a barbeque picnic and the really clever bit is the kebab stick itself.. a Lemongrass .. adding in lemony citrus notes whilst it’s cooking.

1tsp fennel

1 tps fenugreek

1 tsp Turmeric

1 tsp cumin

1tsp ground chili

1tsp mustard Seeds

1tsp sea salt

4 lemongrass sticks

1 lemon

4 tbs sunflower oil

2 inch’s grated ginger

600 g of lamb leg in 1 1/2 inch chunks

1 Add each spice one at a time and grind using a pestle and mortar. Grind the spices until reasonably fine.

2 Using a sharp knife cut a hole in the centre of each chunk of Lamb and skewer onto the lemongrass. (Do be careful not to skewer yourself!)

3 Brush the oil onto the meat and put them into a large clear plastic bag. Add the ground spices and shake the kebabs about to cover them. Add the Lemon Juice and grated ginger and leave in the fridge ideally for 24 hours .. but I have on occasion left them for just 2 hours and they’ve still be delicious.

They are now ready for the barbeque. Once cooked scatter with fresh coriander and fresh chilies.


This combination of spices works just as well with chicken or pork.

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Tuesday, 14 June 2011

If there was ever a reason to make cupcakes ..


 If there was ever a reason to make cupcakes ..   He's on page 12 of Prepped and was drinking the Elderflower & Rose Syrup. 

 I just could't resist him .. and can you blame me ?  So I tried out almost all my cupcakes on him from Prepped for a whole month whist he was thatching the cottage opposite. 

He loved the Vanilla and Rhubarb Cupcakes with Elderflower & Rose buttercream ( I made at least 6 test batches - the  recipe is on page 33)

.. and so to answer the questions that keep being asked in order:

No he is not my husband. 

Yes he's an old friend of my brother. 

Yes he really loved the cupcakes.

No whilst he was working on the thatched cottage for a month I got virtually no work done anywhere i the house other than in full view if the cottage he was thatching.

Yes he really was that fit! 

Yes I am happily married

...and no..  I am not answering that last question !!!

Sigh  ..  

I'm off to make more of these then ... 


Monday, 13 June 2011

Lemon and Geranium Cupcakes

Perfect for a Sunday afternoon tea on the lawn these cupcakes are simple to make but layer with summer flavour. The best place nearby to where I live in Northampton to buy scented pelargonium’s is at Cramden Nursery in Kingsthorpe and I used Turkish Delight variety in mine.
For the best results fill with cream about 30 minutes before serving.
Serves: 18
Prep time 20 minutes & overnight infusing of cream
Cooking time 18 minutes
Suitable for freezing Yes but I freeze before Adding the Cream
200g caster sugar
200g unsalted butter, cubed and softened
2 lemons, finely grated zest
3 medium eggs, beaten, at room temperature
200g self-raising flour
4/ 5 Scented pelargonium leaves
500ml double cream
3 tbs icing sugar

1 Bruise the Geranium leaves and add to the cream. Leave to infuse overnight.
2 Preheat the oven to 180°C/ gas mark 4.
3 Place 18 cupcakes in a tray ready.
4 Put the sugar, softened butter and lemon zest in a mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon or an electric hand mixer. The result should be pale in colour, with a really light and fluffy texture. Putting in the lemon zest when you cream the butter and sugar helps to release the oils in the zest, which results in a much more lemony sponge.
5 Now start adding the beaten eggs, which should be at roughly the same temperature as the butter and sugar. Add them in stages, beating after each addition. If the mixture looks like it’s going to curdle, add 1 tablespoon of flour. Finally, fold in the flour. You will be left with a really thick mixture, but this is what you want for a dense sponge.
6 Spoon the mixture into your prepared cupcakes and bake for 15 - 18 minutes
7. Remove from the tin and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
8 Strain the cream and whip to a firm consistency. Cut out a chunk from the top of each cupcake to make a hollow.
9 Dollop a tablespoon of cream into each indentation. Cut the remaining piece of cake in half and place on top of the cream to give you an old-fashioned butterfly-cake effect.
Decorate with Geranium petals (Although I do remove mine before eating

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Broad Bean Salad with Elderflower & Ginger Dressing


One of the things I love the most about blogging is the how flexible you can be. So for those of you who have bought Prepped, new linked recipes on the blog here keep the book alive and adds an extra dimension .... .so I shall keep adding new recipes each week .. keep an eye out and please do join in Club's so good to share!

This week using the Elderflower and Rose syrup as the linked recipe I have combined the elderflower syrup with ginger & lime giving this dressing zing.

Back in the days when I was a chef ( .. oh it seems such a long time ago now!) the definition of salad was an iceberg lettuce with cucumber slices and the odd quarter of tomato. Thank goodness things have changed! Think fresh, think zesty, warm, bacon, chorizo, colourful, tasty zingy, and crunch. It really is time to rethink salad, as you know it. Chorizo ginger lime and elderflower salad dressing over a Spanish style pea and bean salad. It is quick. It’s easy and it’s tasty. You can eat this hot or cold and it makes a cracking packed lunch. If you haven’t had the chance to make your cordial yet then there is still time .. just .. but if not then you can buy elderflower syrup. Look for a good quality syrup, with no added preservatives or additives that is floral and not too sweet such as Belvoir Fruit farms cordial - it’s lovely and floral whilst still retailing a good acid balance needed for a salad dressing and it’s made in not far away from me in Northamptonshire .. in Grantham (available in most supermarkets.)

Makes Salad for 4 -6
Preparation 15 minutes
Freeze No
Keeps up to 3 days covered in the fridge


1 onion finely sliced

300g chorizo

300g peas (frozen are fine)

250g board beans


3 tablespoons elderflower syrup

2 inches of ginger root

zest and juice of 1 lime

Basil to dress

1) Place the Chorizo and onion into a frying pan and gently sautĂ©. You don’t need any oil - there should be enough fat in the chorizo. When the onion is soft and slightly caramelised add in the peas and board beans. Keep on a low heat and stir.

2) The beans and peas take 8 – 10 minutes to cook. Once the heat has worked it’s way through them add in 2 or 3 tablespoons of water and keep stirring. If it catches add another tablespoon of water.

3)Once the peas and beans are cooked grate a about a 2 inch piece of ginger and squeeze out the juice. – there should be about 3 tablespoons. Mix this with the elderflower syrup and the lime zest and juice and pour into the saucepan. Mix well.

4) Serve either hot or cold. Scatter torn basil leaves before you serve.

(Photo's courtesy of Northampton Chronicle & Echo)


Monday, 6 June 2011

Club Prepped the first ever and the theme is ...


There are some fabulous cooks out there!

Blogging is a community and I feel very much part of it and I've been supported by some fabulous people. So how about a monthly round up of who’s cooked what from Prepped? - Well actually I took my inspiration from Helen at Fuss Free Flavour's Breakfast club who suggested it and I think it's a great idea!

I'd love for you to take part whether you have a blog or not.. I’ll add all the links and publish a round up on the last day of the month

To take part, simply cooked a linked recipe from the recipe bool Prepped along the line of that month’s flavours ELDERFLOWER and RHUBARB and post it.

  • Mention Prepped in your post and use this logo I'm Prepped
  • Link to this page
  • You can use previous posts, but please do add the information above and republish
  • If you tweet please tweet using #prepped
  • If you do not have a blog send a photo and details to me
  • Entries may also be submitted to other events, but please respect their rules
  • New recipe invented from the Key Recipes are allowed as entries

.... and as an added extra the best post will win a Yes you x Tea towel from Cooking Gorgeous

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Prepped in YOU magazine

It's unbelievable. I'm having to pinch myself. It must be true .. I read it in the paper today.

There is a full page feature about Prepped in YOU magazine... so run out and buy the Mail on Sunday now !!


Ms Marmitelover

Love it or hate it .. Marmite. Well I love marmite and certainly love what Kerstin Rodgers

has been doing withher underground restaurant headingup the home retuarant revolution and writing Supperclub to share her knowledge of how she does it.

I took the opportunity after Kirsten came on the radio show today along with surprise guest Jules from the secret supper society to go shopping and got to spend a grilie hour browsing for vintage treasures. can find out allot about a personin a short space of time whilst shopping. So I’ll share in my observations. She’s a savvy, with an eye for a bargain and knows what she likes and doesn’t. She knows the value of a pound, having supported herself as a single mum her success has not been handed to her on a plate, this lady has earned her place as the head of the super club movement. Whilst she’s shopping she’s thinking about others, and took a photo she knew would interest another foodie to share in a tweet- a micromoment that captures her way of thinking. She says it how it is. Trying on a vintage blouse I loved I was ignoring the fact it was a tad too tight she told me. It pulls and you’ll never wear it she said. It is what a good friend would tell you.. not necessary what you want to hear .. but the truth. She’s a breath of fresh air.

Kerstin doesn’t claim to have started the supper club movement, but what she has done is headed it up a revolution with her book Supper Club. She shares her knowledge, recipes and tips lists supper clubs in the back of her book promoting everyone along the way. She also has a site here where everyone can go to find out more.

Inspirational women are few and far between - for me Kerstin is a rare find because she inspires. Her Punk DIY attitude rocks and whether you want to eat in a supper club, run a super club or simply look at a beautiful book to use for dinner party idea’s I can tell you now that her recipes are delicious, straightforward and work. I know this because I am cooking from her lovely book and eating the pitta bread from page 99 as I type.

What you can’t catch on a blog post is how cheeky and saucy Kirsten is. She’s great fun and has a you can do anything attitude to life. But make no mistake though, however much fun she is she doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She has a strong sense of right and wrong and considers the overall impact of what she does rather than just the me myself and I approach that one sometimes encounters in people with their own ideas. I really love her unique attitude and have to say that she’s the real treasure I found today.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Vanilla Sugar


If there is on thing I just don't think I could be without in my kitchen cupboard it would be vanilla sugar.

The top notes sing above the ingredients. A delight. Now although I'm not adverse to using essence, and I admit that I am being particular when I say that the depth of flavours in a recipe are improved significantly when infused sugar is used rather than essence.

The sugar is a treat in coffee and hot chocolate, or sprinkled over strawberries and cream

For me it has to be Ndali. Nothing else comes close in my opinion. Fair trade, organic it's dark, deep sticky sweetness vanilla accentuates the sweetness of it's counterpart ingredients.

However it's not cheap to go out and buy lots of vanilla in one go, so my tip is to gift vanilla pods instead of chocolate, wine or flowers to friends who cook.

Then if your close friends or family bring you gifts when you invite them for supper then perhaps suggest that you'd be utterly delighted with some vanilla instead as you are building your stash.

List is as one of those things you'd love to receive and you'll soon have a seriously packed jar of utterly delicious sweet vanilla sugar before you know it.

Linked Recipes


Thursday, 2 June 2011

Strawberry Vanilla and Rose Ice-cream


The strawberries are early. They are small, sweet juicy and just slightly tart. I can honestly say that I never eat strawberries out of season they are nothing but a disappointment - so I gorge on them a this time of year not least because their prefect state is so fleeting - a rare find. Not ripe enough and they are perfumeless tasting of nothing and over ripe they simply loose their texture. Really strawberries are best served warm from the summer sun or left to ripen on their own they will develop a deep sweetness and it is at this point you capture the moment and devour them. If you have a glut then seize the opportunity and catch these exquisite berries most heavenly moment in ice-cream emphasizing their feminine charm with rose and vanilla.

Serves 8

Prep time 5 minutes

Cooking time 20 =- 25 minutes + 20 minutes to whisk / turn in to ice-cream

500ml double cream

200ml full fat milk

5 egg yolks

125g vanilla sugar (or caster sugar with a vanilla pod)

4 fresh roses or 3/4 drops of rose essence

425g fresh strawberries


1 Put the, cream, milk and egg yolks and sugar in a heavy-based saucepan and stir over a moderate heat. Keep moving the liquid using a whisk. ( add the vanilla pod at this point if you don’t have vanilla sugar)

2 Keep stirring as the custard thickens. This can take 20 – 25 minutes so take your time and don’t be tempted to heat it quickly (you’ll get scrambled eggs!). The mixture will thicken. When the custard easily coats the back of a spoon, remove it from the heat.

3 Check the rose petals for any extra guests and then drop them into the custard. Allow the custard to cool. I leave mine over night - but if you are in a hurry use rose essence instead.

4 Hull the strawberries and blend to a liquid in a food processor. Sieve the petals out of the custard and pour into the strawberries. Blend the mixture. It is now ready to make the ice cream.

5 (You can store this for up to 2 days before making it into ice-cream in a clean airtight container ) Transfer into an ice-cream maker, and follow the manufacturers instructions to make the ice-cream.


If you make this by hand, then you’ll need to pour the mixture into a shallow freezer-proof container, Freeze for about an hour. Whisk it every 45 minutes of so 3–4 times as it is setting to prevent ice crystals forming and you will get a smooth result. (Use a timer to remind you as I often forget to go back and whisk!)