Tuile, feminine noun (une tuile, la tuile, les tuiles) = tile (pronounced… ah now how do you pronounce a French u ?)
A word about pronouncing ‘u’ in French. Together with the rolled or back-of-the-throat ‘r’, the ‘u’ is the most difficult sound in French, for Anglo-Saxons at least. So we’ll have a little lesson right now. It is pronounced ‘u’ not ‘ou’. Purse your lips into the shape – forgive me – of a chicken’s bottom. Like a never-been-kissed young lady in silent films, who closes her eyes, purses her lips, and raises her face in the expected direction. So purse your lips firmly, and try to say the sound ‘eeeee’. Or ‘iiiii’, however you wish to write it. This should, if you keep your lips rigidly in the original position, produce the French sound ‘u’. Practise. It is important.
So back to tuile. You pronounce it tu-eel (you are allowed to relax your lips after the first syllable. And try to run the two syllables into one another a little.
Une tuile in colloquial French is a mishap. A spanner in the works. Il m’arrive une tuile = I have a problem.
And it means a tile, a roof tile. What has a roof tile to do with French cuisine? Well tuiles are little roof-tile shaped biscuits, often rounded like the roof tiles in Provence, tuiles aux amandes (almond tuiles) for example, which are eaten on the side with ice cream or creamy desserts.
My recipe for today, after all this introduction, is for tuiles au parmesan. A neat little biscuit that is disconcertingly easy to make, and the source of unbelievable admiration. They are served usually as nibbles with apéritif (drinks), but can accompany Italian style antipasti.
For about 30 tuiles (they disappear fast) you will need:
30 tbs grated parmesan (freshly grated is much better but you can use packet grated)
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. These biscuits are so quickly done, it is more economical to plan another dish to cook in the oven afterwards, better to put all that preheating to good use.
- On a baking sheet placed on a rigid baking tray (so that you can pick it up easily), make little heaps of grated parmesan, one tablespoon at a time, about an inch, 2.5cm, apart.
- You can at this stage add to the top of the little parmesan mountain a grind of fresh pepper, a sprinking of paprika, chile pepper or rosemary. Only top with dry goods, never add, for instance, a slice of olive, the moisture it contains will prevent your tuile from crisping up. Personally I prefer them plain.
- Pop into the hot oven.
- Now THIS is the difficult bit. DO NOT take your eyes off them. They only take 2 or 3 minutes. Watch them melt, flatten down a bit, and start to colour. Take them out of the oven when they are pale to medium golden. If you miss this stage and they become deep golden, or even brown, you’ll have to start over again. Throw them away. They will taste bitter.
- Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes and remove to a plate with a palette knife. They are extremely fragile. There is no need to coax these into a rounded shape over a rolling pin, it only makes them more fragile still. Pile them up on a serving plate and wait for the compliments.
They should be made as short a time as possible before serving, they do tend to go soft again after an hour or two. Don’t refrigerate, just leave them on the side. They don’t keep well at all, but there are usually none left anyway. They are so quick to do that if you keep parmesan handy, you can make them in minutes when you have unexpected guests.