Rous-what? I hear you ask.

Rousquilles (pronounced roos-keels) are round French cakes from the Roussillon region of France that taste of lemon and aniseed, are dusted in a thick coating of icing sugar, and are vaguely doughnut-shaped. Found in Catalan areas of France (for example, near Perpignan), you will have difficulty finding them elsewhere.

I personally discovered them thanks to my parents owning a house in this area of France, and also found that my husband liked them too, having had a childhood friend whose parents were from the region, and therefore having fond memories of sharing them with this friend. As well as being a slightly different taste experience, they are also relatively inexpensive at under €4 for 16 (so less than 25 centimes per rousquille) and available in French supermarkets in this area of France, often coming in a box of 16 divided into 4 handy sachets for lunchboxes and the like. However, they are also heartily recommended as a dessert, naturally with a local sweet wine as an accompaniment (try Rivesaltes, Banyuls or Maury).

The name comes from the Spanish for “little wheel” (rosquilla – thanks, Wikipedia!), but the Spanish-influenced desserts in the south of France don’t stop there. There’s the chocolate version of the rousquille, the choconine, which adopts an aniseed and vanilla flavour combination, and touron (aka Catalan/Spanish nougat). You can also try the Caprice du Roussillon or the Croqu’amande (both almond cakes) – but for me the jewel in the crown of Catalan cake after the rousquilles is the couronne (quite literally ‘crown’ – funny that), which essentially looks like a ‘plain’, uniced rousquille, with aniseed as its flavour.

The texture of the couronne is, to the best of my recollection, harder than the more crumbly rousquille. Another challenge that presents itself to the rousquille eater is the equally crumbly layer of icing sugar, which means that things can get messy (hence another reason why the 4 separate “étuis fraîcheur” are a good idea, so that you can catch the crumbs without incident and thus not make a mess of the sofa).

So, in short: all hail the regional speciality! (Story of my life, I think.)