Recently I had the opportunity to sample some delicious vegetarian borshch made by an amazing old lady who grew up in Ukraine (n.b.: ingredients I now know how to say in Ukrainian: onion, carrot, chili, garlic, mushroom, beet, cabbage, dill). Here I wanted to make a version that was not too far from that but also could stand on its own as a one-pot meal. I read that sometimes these soups have sausage in them, so I added tempeh, mushrooms, and some sausage seasonings--which add not only protein, but also a great depth of flavor. Using the "No Beef" stock paste is also an incredible shortcut (and it works fantastically here). Chilies, tomato paste, and worcestershire sauce also amp up the flavor.
Finally (and not to sound like a broken record), cashew cream is probably the most amazing thing in the history of veganism. Literally all you do is soak raw cashews in water, then drain, then blend with new water (and a pinch of salt, lemon, etc), and you get the most perfect substitute for yogurt, cream, sour cream, milk, and so on, depending on how you tweak it. Half a cup of cashews will yield more than a cup of cream, making it way way cheaper than any commercial/processed alternative (and you can make only as much as you need).
1-2 tsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 serrano chili, minced (seeded or not depending on your taste--I seeded half of mine)
1 block tempeh, cut into small cubes
1 tsp fennel seed
small pinch ground allspice
5 cloves garlic, minced
7 oz mushrooms, chopped
1 c vegetable stock (I used Better than Bouillon "No Beef")
2 large beets, peeled and diced
1/2 head cabbage, shredded
4-5 c more stock (or if you're cautious about salt, do 3-4 c stock and 1 c water and adjust to taste)
3-4 TB tomato paste
1 TB minced dill
red pepper flakes or paprika
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and chili with pinch of salt, and saute until soft and fragrant.
Add tempeh, fennel, allspice, and tamari and saute some more, until tempeh is lightly browned.
Add garlic and mushrooms, cook briefly, then add 1 c vegetable stock to deglaze/keep from burning. Cook a few more minutes.
Now dump in the beets, cabbage, and the rest of the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beets are tender but still firm. Add more water or stock as necessary to just cover.
Add tomato paste, Worcestershire, and dill. Taste for salt and other seasonings, and adjust.
Serve hot, garnished with cashew cream, more dill, and red pepper flakes or paprika. Serves 6-8 (freeze some for later?).