Choose small purple-black, smooth-skinned and plump aubergines and cut off both ends. Forget about all this salting nonsense: if the aubergines are old and bitter, no amount of salting is going to improve them. Peel 1 cm/½ in wide strips lengthwise to produce a striped effect. Cut a deep slit along one side of each aubergine to make a pocket, being careful not to cut all the way through.
Peel and thinly slice the onions and peel, smash and chop the garlic. Blanch, peel and chop the tomatoes. Destalk and chop the parsley.
Fry the onions and garlic gently in 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, until soft and translucent.
Add the peeled and chopped tomatoes, season with salt, pepper and the sugar and continue to cook, stirring, until the water in the tomatoes has evaporated. Stir in the parsley, reserving some for garnish. Add the juice from one of the lemons and leave to cool.
Put the remaining olive oil in another pan and fry the aubergines over a moderate heat to seal, turning to brown lightly all over. Remove and drain.
When the aubergines are cool enough to handle, carefully open each along the cut and spoon in as much stuffing as you can.
Arrange them, cut side up, in an ovenproof dish just large enough for them to sit snugly without falling over. Spread any remaining stuffing over the top, pour over 300 ml/½ pt of cold water, cover loosely with foil and
Take out and leave to cool.
Garnish with some of the reserved chopped flat-leaf parsley and serve at room temperature as a first course, with the other lemon cut into wedges and with warm pitta bread or toasted ciabatta.
© 1995 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.