Cooking for others is an opportunity to make food mean the same for them as it does to me - Alexander Brown

Most of the meals you will ever cook, you are likely to have eaten before you made them.

Your parents will have made you the classics which you then learnt yourself, though never as good, or perhaps you sampled it at a restaurant and thought why can’t I do that, the answer to which is usually a lack of ability, time and money.

Some of these things you eat out, and should simply never make at home.

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Now my mum makes a fantastic pizza, it’s the perfect texture of crust. I love all the toppings because I put them on, but I’m afraid nobody, no matter how brilliant, is making a better pizza at home than you can get in a restaurant.

The timballo in all its glory

I suspect the same stands for sushi, fish and chips, and most curries. That doesn’t mean we shouldn't try, but even for someone whose personality is increasingly “has cookbooks”, I know my limits.

But there are some foods I want that I've never tried, I’m just aware of them and can only do my closest interpretation, like the same dish reflected in a spoon.

These are foods that take on a mythical quality that I can’t make, like the feast in Spirited Away, or basically all cartoon food, which somehow always looks better than the real thing.

But some are real, and feel almost magical because of the association I have with them, such as timballo.

This is a baked Italian dish that is essentially a pie of pasta, except instead of pastry it’s either more pasta, or as I tried, the humble aubergine.

Now I love aubergine, it’s a top three vegetable for its versatility and also it’s frankly pathetic need to be sweated out with salt first, really making you work for it.

I first became aware of timballo having watched Big Night, a film written by Stanley Tucci about two Italian brothers running a restaurant in America, and hoping a dinner party can save it from going under.

Desperate, they turn to the timballo, a meal that is eventually described by guests as the best thing they have ever eaten.

Hosting a dinner party last week like the salt of the earth I am, there was naturally no other option for the main.

Now I won’t pretend the dish was not fairly difficult, but one of the great things about cooking is, and whisper it, you are just following instructions, however complicated.

And I love doing it, for me the stress is only on whether my friends enjoy it and praise me for simply doing what a recipe told me.

Listening to Wet Leg and Carly Rae Jepsen, enjoying a kitchen boogie is not so much slaving for hours as manifesting, preparing something that excites me to share with those I love.

The smart thing to do would obviously be to make it before, have an idea of what works, but that removes the romance.

The timballo was a messy, delicious and admittedly collapsible triumph, but I have no reason to think it shouldn’t be like that.

I want to make food mean as much to my friends as it does to me, and taste the same for them in real life as I imagine seeing it on screen.

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