The Teesside Parmo (known locally as ‘The Parmo’)
EU No: [for EU use only]
Member State or Third Country ‘United Kingdom’
The Teesside Parmo (known locally as ‘The Parmo’)
2.21 – Prepared meal
3.1. Whether the product:
X• results from a mode of production, processing or composition corresponding to traditional practice for that product or foodstuff.
⬜ is produced from raw materials or ingredients that are those traditionally used.
3.2 Whether the name:
X⬜ has been traditionally used to refer to the specific product
⬜ identifies the traditional character or specific character of the product
4.1. Description of the product to which the name under point 1 applies, including its main physical, chemical, microbiological or organoleptic characteristics showing the product’s specific character (Article 7(2) of this Regulation)
The Teesside Parmo is a unique and traditional delicacy in the region. It consists of three layers: a bread crumbed meat escalope (chicken or pork); topped with béchamel sauce; and melted, orange coloured cheddar cheese. The colours of the three layers are distinctly different from one another, which is a key feature of The Parmo’s overall appearance. There should be a contrast between the orange coloured cheddar cheese on the top, the lighter shade of the béchamel sauce, and a deeper orange colour to the deep fried breadcrumbs at the base of the dish.
A fresh meat escalope makes up around two thirds of the overall dish. The meat can either be chicken or pork, which is flattened to make the escalope. In the case of chicken, this must be a fresh chicken breast, which has been butterflied. The average depth of the meat escalope is 10mm, and it will typically not exceed 20mm (although this may vary depending on the diameter of the Parmo).
The meat escalope is coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried, before the remaining layers of the dish are added.
Together, the béchamel and cheese topping make up around one third of the overall dish. A freshly prepared béchamel sauce, made of flour, butter (or butter substitute) and milk or cream is mixed to a thick consistency. This is spread across the top of the cooked, breaded escalope. Grated cheddar cheese, coloured orange using annatto colouring, is then added to the top of the dish, and melted until it is bubbling.
The Parmo can be made with either pork or chicken. Production starts with a raw piece of meat, which is trimmed of bones and skin and prepared into an escalope. If the base meat is chicken, this is first butterflied.
The meat is flattened to an average depth of the escalope is 10mm, and typically up to a maximum of 20mm (although this may vary depending on the diameter of the Parmo, and the meat used. For example a chicken base is likely to have a greater depth). There is no limit to the diameter of a Parmo.
The escalope is covered in a batter adhesive and coated in breadcrumbs. It is then either baked or deep fried until the meat is cooked thoroughly.
A freshly prepared béchamel sauce is made using flour, butter (or butter substitute) and milk or cream. This should use a standard ratio of ingredients typical to a béchamel sauce, based on 2:2:1, e.g. two cups (240g) of flour, to two cups (454g) of butter (or butter substitute) to one cup (250ml) of milk or cream.
The béchamel sauce is mixed to a think consistency and left to cool.
A thin layer of cooled béchamel sauce is spread across the entire surface of the cooked escalope. It will be in proportion to the size of the escalope, and will make up approximately one sixth of the depth of the finished Parmo.
Finally, grated cheddar cheese that is coloured orange with annatto colouring (as used to colour all cheddar) is added to the top of the Parmo. This will also comprise one sixth of the depth of the final Parmo, and the proportion of cheese added will reflect this.
The prepared Parmo is then grilled until the cheese if fully melted and begins to bubble.
The Parmo will be served hot. The final cooking time will depend upon whether The Parmo is freshly prepared in a restaurant or takeaway, or has been pre-prepared in a factory for later consumption. Both varieties and are appropriate to be recognised as The Teesside Parmo, provided they have followed the production method above.
The concept of the Teesside Parmo was first introduced to Teesside in 1958 by Nicos Harris, an American Second World War veteran of Italian descent who opened a takeaway in Middlesbrough after recovering from his war injuries. In his American Grill, he began serving a dish based on a veal parmigiana – a fried breaded meat cutlet (usually veal) – that he remembered from his childhood. It was topped with an Italian tomatoey-cheesy sauce and was known as a parmesan, which was easier to pronounce.
So began the evolution of the multicultural parmo, which went on to become a tradition on Teesside. The Italian dish was turned into American-style fast food more suitable to the local temperament. Then veal was replaced first by pork and now, increasingly, by chicken which was easier to source locally. The Italian topping also evolved into an easily produced béchamel sauce, although the crucial cheesy element is retained through the cheddar topping.
Initially, the dish was a quintessential part of a night on the town where it became familiarly known as “The Parmo”. It was later placed on the menu in local pubs and then top-end restaurants which noted that it was now regarded as the area’s traditional taste.
And so, on Teesside, Italian, American and French influences were brought together to create a uniquely Teesside dish. Even the name is uniquely Teesside: elsewhere, it would be familiarly shortened to a parmy or a parma, but the local Teesside dialect dictates that it is a parmo.
The traditional Teesside dish has spread across the country, and beyond that across the world. Restaurants and takeaways selling parmos beyond the region include: Pizza and Co. in Newcastle; the Meat Up in Sunderland; Pizza Way in Scarborough; Eckington Parmo House in Sheffield; Garlogie Inn at Westhill near Aberdeen; Uni Kebab in Southampton; Belushi’s bar in Southwark High Street; Haci’s bar in Armutalan near Marmaris; Pig ‘n’ Whistle in Brisbane and Harvey’s Bar in Benidorm.
There are a huge number of parmos sold in Teesside each week. Central Park restaurant in Middlebrough reportedly sells around 1,500 parmos a week, using up to 21 tonnes of chicken a year. Other outlets include GiGi’s, which sells around 800 a week, and local restaurant Marske, which recently started offering takeaway parmos to meet demand – they sold 300 parmos on opening night, and now have a waiting list for deliveries every weekend.
Jeff the Chef started supplying ‘ready-meal’ parmos to supermarket chains across Teesside and the wider North East in 1997. He currently distributes around 11,000 parmos a week, and recently launched a website for people to order parmos across the UK.
Do you agree with this description of a Parmo and would you also like to join the producers group?
If you don’t want to be part of the group after reading the application then we’d appreciate your reasons for not joining, please email anne-marie.o’email@example.com with your feedback.
Prior to becoming Mayor, Ben was a Councillor on Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, representing Yarm and Kirklevington Ward. He also led the Council’s opposition Conservative Group. In 2012 he stood as the Conservative parliamentary candidate in the Middlesbrough by-election, and in 2014 stood to become our region’s Member of the European Parliament.
As Mayor, Ben is implementing an ambitious agenda to increase economic growth and prosperity. He wants to create a strong local economy that creates good quality jobs, underpinned by an even stronger private sector. His personal commitments include: saving our Airport; supporting businesses to grow; delivering the housing that the region needs; ensuring an effective structure for Cleveland Police; and securing protected food status for ‘The Parmo’ – a much loved local delicacy.
Ben is Teesside born and bred. A qualified solicitor, he has worked for two local firms specialising in commercial litigation and employment law. In 2016 Ben founded BLK UK – an international sportswear business, which supplies clothing to amateur and professional clubs. As Chief Executive of BLK UK, he delivered an impressive programme of growth and company expansion. Since the election, Ben has stepped down from his position at BLK and is dedicating all of his time to his Mayoral role.
Ben lives in Yarm with his wife Rachel, a French teacher at a local secondary school.
As Mayor, Ben is accountable to and represents around 670,000 people across all five boroughs in the Tees Valley. Ben’s primary role is to steer the work of the Tees Valley Combined Authority – the body that drives economic growth and job creation in the area. The job of the Mayor ranges from setting budgets and priorities for economic development, transport, infrastructure and skills, to acting as an ambassador for our region to attract inward investment.
The Combined Authority is not a ‘super-council’ or another version of Cleveland County Council – the five Tees Valley councils will continue to exist in their own right, delivering local services and meeting the day-to-day needs of residents. The Mayor and Combined Authority do not replace, nor can they overrule local councils.
In exchange for more powers and control over local budgets, the Tees Valley agreed to elect a Mayor who would act as a single point of accountability – to both local people and central government.
Devolution means having more control over how and where we spend the money we have. It means we can design services and find ways of working that better meet the needs of the Tees Valley and the people that live, work and invest here. It also means we can boost our economy and reinvest money back into the region to where it is needed most.
Ben is able to make some decisions independently, but others involve consultation with, and approval of, all five leaders of our local councils in the Tees Valley. Some decisions need unanimous support, others need a majority.
The Parmo is a local delicacy that we all know and love. It is something that we very much associate with being a ‘Teessider’.
I believe it’s time we put Parmos on the map. One of my election pledges, for which I received considerable support, was securing ‘protected food status’ for the Parmo. We’ve seen the Cornish Pasty receive ‘protected status’ and we all know Champagne has origin protection – it’s about time the Parmo was recognised too.
Protected food status is an EU scheme where food or drink producers can apply to have the name of their product protected under EU law. It gives an elevated status to the product, which can be celebrated in local communities, at the same time as increasing business opportunities for local producers. The benefits of protected status are not lost through Brexit. The likely development of a UK scheme for protected food names will have the same advantages, and can be attached to future trade deals, including with the EU.
There’s an application process to secure protected food status, where Parmo producers must explain how the Parmo is made, what makes it unique, and why it’s such an important part of our culture in Teesside. I would be delighted to support a producer group to do this, details of how to get involved are below.
The majority of my work as Mayor is delivering an agenda that drives economic growth and increases prosperity. This involves tackling some really complex issues, from the future of our airport to ensuring that our businesses can access the skills they need for future success. The Parmo provides a more light-hearted and positive opportunity to really galvanise community interest and support, and to build local pride. I hope you will agree, and look forward to working with you.
To join the free group you must already be a parmo producer – a registered business, which is licensed to sell food products to the public and also sells parmos as part of your menu. You must also read the draft application below which includes a description of how we suggest a true Teesside Parmo should be made. We want your views on this, and you can submit your own suggestions in the box provided at the bottom of the application. We will review all feedback, and the final application will reflect the comments we receive. Once you have agreed to the method, or suggested your own – you will be part of the Parmo Producers group! No costs are involved – the purpose of the group is to get as many producers to support the campaign as possible.
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