Like many people, I really enjoy food, especially good food.  I love to eat out, I enjoy a good takeaway, I even enjoy shopping for food but mostly I love to cook it.  One of my favourite things to do, when I can find the time, is to prepare an elaborate multi-course meal or even a single labour and process intensive dish entirely from scratch.  Unfortunately, this isn’t always practical.  I don’t often have the time, resource or even the skill to cook any of the numerous recipes stacking up in my recipe binder or to try out the new ideas I’ve had while running on the treadmill or making yet another loom band bracelet for my 5-year old.

Over the years, I’ve also learned that sometimes the cost of making something from scratch doesn’t match the taste benefit.  You can’t beat freshly made corn tortillas for tacos but the extra effort to turn these into tortilla chips is hardly worth it when there are so many decent ones you can buy.  I recently made ravioli and since I don’t have a pasta machine it took a fair amount of time to knead and roll out the dough.  While I did very much enjoy making it and appreciated the flavour of the ultra fresh pasta it takes significantly less time and effort to buy good quality, fresh pasta that tastes nearly as good.

Even top chefs use shortcuts in their kitchens or at home, from canned ingredients to handy kitchen tools to preparing ingredients in bulk and freezing them for use later. (I do this with cookies, making a double batch and freezing rolls of dough that I’m not baking straight away.) Delia Smith’s somewhat controversial book, “Delia’s How to Cheat at Cooking”, takes advantage of many pre-prepared foods to reduce cooking times and techniques.  Frozen puff pastry, stock cubes, jarred roasted peppers, won-ton wrappers, canned beans, frozen peas and canned tomatoes are just some of the packaged foods that top chefs cite as ingredients, which help reduce cooking time and complexity without detrimentally impacting flavour.  Other popular tips include melting chocolate in the microwave, using a food processor to chop onions or buying pre-peeled or pre-chopped garlic or ginger.

Cookies
It’s possible to draw parallels to shortcuts in the kitchen with shortcuts in software development.  Sometimes you have the time, resource, skill and inclination to build something entirely proprietary and this may give you an edge.  Sometimes it’s useful to take a few shortcuts, perhaps using OSS software for specific functions, buying a feature-rich grid rather than building one or using code you’ve previously written.  Other times you might just want to buy a fully developed piece of software.

If you are a restaurateur or head chef at a top restaurant the odds are that you limit what is available on your menu.  If you don’t it becomes impossible to produce high quality food because of the vast list of ingredients you would need to have on hand as well as the tools and processes you would need at your disposal to prepare those ingredients.  It is similar for a software company.  Software companies will generally focus on a few core products or products for a specific sector.  Investment banks don’t have that luxury.

Investment banks require a vast range of software in order to run and to be competitive they need at least some of that software to help distinguish them from their competitors.  From better-known software developed for areas such as trading, risk management and compliance to the sometimes less well-known software for systems that manage application inventory, access control, property portfolios and power consumption analysis.

As banks continue to look at how to reduce technology spend they can look for shortcuts to delivering software without impacting quality or integrity.  Banks can look to buy or sell software assets where that asset is really just one of the ingredients used to produce an excellent overall offering.  eCo opens up a new market of established providers for these software assets, these ingredients.

Go all out when it matters, make your standout dish for that special dinner party or perfect that one cuisine because it’s your livelihood.  Otherwise, make life just a little bit easier by employing all the tricks in your arsenal to deliver something high quality at a reasonable cost.

 

 

HUEVOS RANCHEROS (easy or not-so-easy)

This is a recipe for one of my favourite breakfast foods, Huevos Rancheros.  There are many variations for Huevos Rancheros and you can make substitutions to fit your own particular tastes.  This recipe can be more or less labour intensive and time consuming to make depending on how many shortcuts you take and is great for serving a crowd as the recipe scales easily.  This version serves 6.  If you and your guests are hungry just double up the portions and serve two tortillas and two eggs per person with extra toppings.

Ingredients:
6 (5- to 6-inch) corn tortillas (I make my own, directions below, but if you have access to good ones then store bought will do.  You can also substitute flour tortillas if you prefer.)
1 (19-ounce) can enchilada sauce* (This is where I “cheat” and buy canned red enchilada sauce.  Choose mild or hot depending on your preference.  You can find plenty of recipes for ranchero sauce on the web if you choose to make your own.)
6 large eggs
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained (Again, I “cheat” and buy canned beans and then spruce them up a bit.  Substitute pinto or refried beans if you prefer and use them plain to make this recipe even easier.)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup finely chopped onion
1-2 tbsps Cholula (or any other favorite hot sauce)
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and chopped
3 green onions, finely sliced
1 cup grated queso fresco, monterey jack cheese or sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream

 

For the tortillas:
1 cup masa harina
pinch of salt
½ – 3/4 cup warm water
1 plastic bag (sandwich bags opened up to form one long piece of plastic work well)

Combine the masa harina and salt. Add the ½ cup of the water and mix well until the water is absorbed evenly and the dough forms a ball.  Add more water a little at a time if the dough is crumbly.  You are looking for a soft dough that neither crumbles nor sticks to your hands.  Divide the dough into six to eight equal portions and roll into balls.

Preheat a griddle or heavy skillet on medium to medium-high heat.

Using a tortilla press (or a heavy dish or rolling pin if you don’t have a tortilla press), place a ball of the dough between two pieces of the plastic and press to form a 6 inch round tortilla.

Pull back the top piece of plastic, place the dough side in one hand and carefully pull back the plastic from the other side of the tortilla.  Place the tortilla onto the heated griddle and cook for 30-45 seconds until the edges begin to dry out and the tortilla is easy to lift.  Turn over and cook for another 45-60 seconds until light brown patches form.  Turn over again and cook for another 15 seconds.

Place cooked tortillas in a tortilla warmer or wrap with a clean napkin or towel ready to server.  You can also wrap the finished tortillas in foil and keep them warm in an oven on low heat.

For the beans:
Heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a medium skillet over moderate heat and gently fry the onions until lightly browned (2-3 minutes) add the minced garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.

Add the beans and hot sauce then cook, stirring frequently until hot, about 3-4 minutes.  (You can mash some of the beans with a potato masher if you prefer a creamier texture.)

Cover and set aside.

To serve:
Warm the enchilada sauce, beans and tortillas if they are not already warm.

Fry the eggs.  Heat a skillet with 1 tsp vegetable oil or cooking spray to medium high heat.  Crack the eggs into the skillet and cook for 1-2 minutes then turn and cook for another 30 seconds for over easy eggs.

Place one tortilla on each plate, top with beans and then a fried egg.  Pour 3-4 tbsps of enchilada sauce over the egg and garnish with cheese, avocado, green onions and sour cream.

 

*You can also substitute salsa, salsa fresca or pico de gallo for the enchilada sauce.