Updated: Mar 21, 2022
As a service to my readers, food & feast posts will always feature the recipe first, with history, folklore, and cooking tips toward the bottom of the page. For background on this recipe and helpful hints for navigating technique, scroll down! Otherwise, dive right in with the recipe below.
photo by Frances F. Denny
blue cheese & honey tart
for the feast of aquarius
Serves 6-8 guests
Contains gluten, dairy, egg
Prep time : 40 minutes
Cook time : 30 minutes
1 ¾ cup walnuts, toasted
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
4 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into ¼in cubes
6–8 tablespoons ice-cold water
½ cup cream cheese, softened
6oz blue cheese, softened
½ cup sour cream
4 tablespoons honey, plus extra to drizzle
1 large egg
½ cup walnuts, plus a few halves for garnish
Preheat your oven to 350ºF/Gas 4. Begin by preparing your tart shell. Use a food processor or mortar and pestle to grind your walnuts as finely as possible. In a large bowl, mix together your walnuts, flour and sugar. Using your hands or a pastry cutter, cut your butter into your flour mixture until no large clumps of butter remain. Slowly add your cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing just until the dough comes together in a smooth ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
When the dough has chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and place it between two sheets of floured baking parchment. Roll the dough into a ¼in thick circle with a 10in diameter. Carefully transfer the dough to a 9 inch tart dish with a loose base and press the dough into place, then trim away the excess dough. Set a layer of baking parchment over your dough and fill the tart case with pie weights or dried beans. Bake your tart shell for 8 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool. Remove the parchment and weights/beans when cool.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or using a spatula, beat together your cheeses and sour cream. Add your honey and season with salt, then beat in your egg. Transfer the batter to your tart shell, and level off the surface with a palette knife. Carefully set your whole walnuts around the rim of the tart. Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until the tart is just barely set in the centre, with a slight wobble. Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool in the tin.
As the solar calendar transits from one year to the next, the sun arrives in the sign of Aquarius, the water bearer, symbolized in western astrology by water flowing from one jug into another. Aquarius is the fixed air sign of the zodiac, traditionally ruled by Saturn, but now governed by Uranus (an update which came after the discovery of the outer planets in the 17th century, changing the planetary designation for this sign as well as Pisces). This alignment with Uranus, the planet of surprise and innovation, makes Aquarius the mad scientist of the zodiac, known for shifting paradigms and changing the world with their big-picture ideas and perspectives. This means an Aquarius feast is likely to take a form you’ve never seen before – food as art, as storytelling, and yes, even as magic. Molecular gastronomy would certainly be the Aquarian approach to cooking, and their flavours would be challenging and provocative, like savoury ice cream or candied bacon. Under this designation, we also find plant-based proteins like tofu, seitan and tempeh, as well as versatile, flavourful ferments like miso, amazake or black garlic. In medical astrology, Aquarius rules our circulation, and so we see also stimulants and energizing ingredients clearly under its rulership – coffee, tea, ginger, cayenne, ashwaganda or kola nuts.
One of the key archetypes for Aquarius is that of the scientist or inventor – the one who creates for the sake of creativity, the innovator and maverick, and the revolutionary. To give your inventive side a culinary challenge (I know you love a challenge, Aquarians!), this feast swaps dinner and dessert, delivering an almost-savory dessert course. This tart features the favored ingredients of your traditional planetary ruler, Saturn, who loves natural ferments like cheeses, soy sauce, vinegars and wines. The flavor of this dish is complex and uncommon, but one which still delivers as a dessert.
This recipe calls upon some specialized techniques as well, appealing to the Aquarian love of gadgetry and learning new skills. In baking your tart shell, you will need to use pastry weights, to blind bake your crust. In lieu of weights if you have none, use dry beans or rice to weigh down your tart shell, as they will help your dough keep its perfect shape while it bakes. Of course, if you have your own invention or contraption you’d like to use instead, be my guest, Aquarius. With this recipe as a starting point, your creative vision and sense of radical play will transform this feast into something really out of this world.