Either that’s a really tiny bottle of Bacardi, or a reeeeeeeally big glass of Coke…

Whenever I pass through the duty-free area at the airport, a number of things catch my eye…usually including the giant Toblerones. However, on this occasion I also picked up a couple of miniatures for my mixing pleasure, and tonight the Bacardi is the star of the show.

Ahh, Bacardi and Coke, how I’ve missed you. You remind me of my student days.

I first went out on a proper “student” night out aged 17 when I went to visit my friend Katie for the weekend. She was a year older and had just started at Middlesex. Having sneaked into the club with no issue, I was then asked what I wanted to drink. Suspecting that a glass of Sauvignon Blanc might not go down amongst a load of lairy students in the Walkabout club, I seem to recall that I shrugged and said “I dunno”. Katie then took the liberty of ordering me something along the lines of a Bacardi and Coke, and so my voyage into the world of student mixers began.

I’ve moved on since then, but my sister and I usually indulge in a Malibu and Coke whenever we’re back home at my parents’, for old times’ sake (not that this was something we ever ritually drank with them, but they don’t like Malibu and were never that bothered about underage drinking). Jack Daniels and Coke, and Southern Comfort and Coke, are also old favourites of mine, acting as a debased form of Proust’s madeleine, transporting me back to student nights out in a trice, whether it’s drunken times on a sticky floor singing Hey Jude with strangers, or sitting with friends in a karaoke bar.

But this is not my only figurative return to my student world tonight, as I also threw together a shepherdess pie for my dinner (resulting in one portion for tonight and three lunches for next week – RESULT). This was one of the many recipes I amassed before heading off to university, having decided that when I got there I would turn vegetarian. Some of the recipes I tried during that time were frankly horrible. But some I have kept, and they still form part of my diet today (which is still a majority vegetarian diet, even here in the land of meat and entrails).

I share the recipe with you here today, as it is dead cheap to make, will make you several meals, keep you going for a long time after you’ve had a portion, and will give you at least 2 or 3 of your five a day in a single serving. Oh, and it tastes nice. I can’t remember where it came from, or I would credit it. But if you recognise it, rest assured that I remain indebted to its creator.

(serves 6-8)

Put 800g of chopped peeled potato (can be sweet or normal, or a mix), onto the boil. Chop the pieces quite small so that they will cook more quickly. Meanwhile, sauté one chopped onion in 2tbsp olive oil for about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 chopped carrots and 1 chopped courgette and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add 1 tin of tomatoes, 1tbsp of tomato purée, a pinch of mixed herbs, 200g of sweetcorn and 400g pulses (your choice). Bring to the boil, and simmer for 10 minutes. Check the potatoes, and when they are done, drain and mash them. Place the vegetable mixture into a casserole dish, and spread the mashed potato carefully over. Sprinkle over grated cheese to taste, and bake for 30 minutes at 180°C. Eat and enjoy! The extra portions freeze and defrost well for handy microwaveable work lunches.

More of my (semi-)healthy student staples:

  • pasta with lentil and red pepper sauce
  • cheese on toast
  • baked potato with baked beans
  • chickpea curry
  • stir fry