BECAUSE the flesh of an aubergine is like sponge and readily accepts whatever flavour you mix with it, it works well with cheese.

However, aubergines are capable of absorbing copious amounts of oil when fried, roasted or grilled, which is why baking them whole first - as suggested in this recipe - avoids the need to keep adding oil during the cooking process.

Aubergines actually come in all shapes, colours and sizes. Some, such as the rounded Thai aubergine with its green stripes, are the size of a grape, whereas the Italians enjoy varieties with long fruit and striking lavender and cream streaks. Creamy aubergines the shape of apples with purple stripes are also popular, and occasionally available over here.

However, it's the plump, near-black, shiny-skinned variety, shaped a little like a pear, that can be grown in the greenhouse during the summer, which has been used for this recipe.

To serve two as a main dish, or four as a starter, you will need: 2 medium-sized aubergines 2 ripe tomatoes - rough chopped One medium-sized onion - chopped fine 4oz (125g) mushrooms - chopped fine One clove garlic - chopped fine 4 sprigs parsley - chopped fine 2 sprigs marjoram 3oz (75g) grated Parmesan cheese Olive oil to fry vegetables Salt and freshly-ground black peppercorns to season Method Preheat the oven to 200C/400F or gas mark 6 and bake the whole aubergines for ten to 20 minutes (according to size) until softened Allow the aubergines to cool a little, so that they can be cut in half horizontally without burning your fingers Using a sharp knife or a spoon, carefully remove the flesh from the centre of each, taking care not to cut through the skin, leaving a shell about 5mm thick Chop the flesh that's been removed into a dice Cover the base of a frying pan with a little oil, add the garlic, onion, tomato and mushroom, and cook over a gentle heat until soft Add the chopped parsley and marjoram to the pan, also the aubergine cubes Scatter half the grated Parmesan over the mix and stir in Season with salt and freshly-ground black peppercorns Place the aubergine shells on a flat baking tray, and fill both with the fried mix Scatter the remaining Parmesan cheese over the top and bake at 200C/400F or gas mark 6 until the cheese topping begins to brown If a starter, one half per person is enough.