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Back in May I left my humble little apartment in Drogheda and moved into Mountaineering Man’s humble little apartment in The Coombe. And then a couple of months ago we moved into a bigger apartment, a place that we can truly call our own.

We spent several weeks looking around at various Dublin neighborhoods, which I will admit was quite frustrating for me as I was still unfamiliar with many areas of the city. MM patiently drove me around Blackrock, Sandymount, Ballsbridge – all desirable areas on the south side – and then to a few of his favourite north side areas including Clontarf, where he once lived while still in college.

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And then one day MM slipped in another neighborhood on our search list: Raheny. “Where is that??” I inquired, admittedly a bit annoyed. He explained that it was just north of Clontarf, on the DART line and close to the sea. Sounded nice enough, but I was exhausted from trying to educate myself on the 6-8 areas we’d already chosen and wasn’t keen to add another to my to-do list.

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However a week later the most beautiful apartment came up in Raheny, and within minutes of viewing it I breathlessly rang MM and told him he had to view it as soon as he was off work. I literally left the viewing, collected him from work and drove him right back to the residence (the letting agent actually waited in the apartment the whole time). He loved it as well and we signed the lease two days later.

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Two months in and I’ve absolutely fallen in love with Raheny. We’re right across the road from St. Anne’s park, which offers miles of beautiful greenery, two rose gardens and a Saturday farmer’s market. We’re right around the corner from a great butcher (JW Smyth), a newsagent, three pharmacies, and a SuperValu. There’s also an auto-repair shop within walking distance and the DART station is just up the road. Of course there are a few pubs as well, though we’ve yet to try any (I’ll report back when I do!).

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We’ve become regulars at a few local businesses. I  am in LOVE with my new gym, which is just around the corner from our place. It’s called Slender Health Gym & Beauty and offers about 120 classes per week that range from 20 minutes to 40-45 minutes. Though I was a complete class novice (at previous gyms I always felt too intimidated to join in and stuck to the treadmill or cross trainer!), I take a class 4-5 times per week here. The instructors are fantastic and everyone who goes there is friendly and supportive. There’s also a beauty salon next door (hence the Beauty part of its name) that does everything from waxing to facials.

MM and I also spend far too much time at Mulino’s, a little Italian bistro on our street. The prices are reasonable and the food is solid, though I can’t vouch for much more than their pizza as that’s all we eat when we go! A wonderfully thin-crusted margherita for me, an anchovy pizza for MM and a bottle of house red from Montepulciano runs us about 45 quid – and we can walk home! We also love McHugh’s Wine & Dine, which is a quick taxi ride away. The restaurant has an inviting interior, friendly service and top-notch food that’d give any big-name city centre restaurant a run for its money. For coffee, there’s the quirky and adorable Perk-u-licious coffee shop that sells lovely fresh-baked scones, cupcakes and homemade sandwiches.

Perhaps the best part of living here is the calm and serenity of the place. Step outside and you can smell the salty sea air and hear the birds chirping. MM has the perfect coastal route for his six-day-a-week 10k runs and I have a sense of community for the first time since moving to Dublin. The only bummer is that our new friends and neighbors, The Gunters, have upped sticks mere weeks after we met them! But at least they just moved to Fairview, a quick drive away. Me and MM, well, I think we’ll stay awhile!

Chicken Tortilla Soup with Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

Irish Food Mexican Tortilla Soup Irish Food Corn Bread

We recently went out to dinner with The Gunters, who moved to Ireland from Austin, Texas four years ago and as they, too, are foodies we got into the inevitable conversation about food! Bill shared some stories on how he’s managed to make some of their Tex-mex favourites here in Ireland and he inspired me to tackle one of my all-time favourite Mexican soups: Chicken Tortilla. Of course you can’t have tortilla soup without cornbread, which I baked up with some chopped jalapenos and cheddar cheese. Needless to say I’ll be making both again very soon!

For the chicken:

2 large chicken breast on the bone, skin on

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper

For the soup:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 jalapeno, seeded and minced

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons cumin

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 400 gram tin of chopped tomatoes

1 chicken stock cube

240 ml boiling water

1 300 gram tin of sweetcorn

For toppings:

3 flour or corn tortillas, sliced into thin strips and baked until crisp (5-8 minutes in 180 C oven)

1 avocado, diced

Grated cheese of your choice

Chopped fresh coriander

Natural yogurt

Lime wedges

To prepare the chicken: Preheat the oven to 170 C. Lay the chicken breasts on a large baking tray, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and put into the oven for 20 minutes; remove foil and place back in oven for an additional 10 minutes or until cooked through. After cooling, remove the skin and bone and, using your fingers, shred the meat. Set aside.

To make the soup: In a large soup pot, heat up the olive oil over medium heat. Add in the onion, bell peppers and jalapeno and cook for about 5-7 minutes or until they start to soften. Now add in the chili powder, garlic powder, cumin and sea salt and toss to coat the vegetables. Add in the tomato paste and chopped tomatoes, stock cube and water and stir. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down and let simmer for 5 minutes. Add in the sweetcorn and the shredded chicken and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until the soup starts to simmer again.

To serve: Pour into bowls and top with sliced avocado, grated cheese, crisp tortilla strips, fresh corriander and natural yogurt. Serve with a wedge of lime and a big slice of Jalapeno & Cheese Cornbread!

Jalapeno & Cheese Cornbread

1 cup or 225 grams polenta or cornmeal (available at most Tescos and health food shops)

1 cup or 120 grams plain white flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup or 120 ml olive oil

2/3 cup or 160 ml milk

2 eggs, beaten

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1/2 cup or 15 grams fresh corriander, chopped

1 cup or 100 grams grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 180 C degrees. Grease a pie dish or 10-inch baking pan with some olive oil and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the polenta, flour, baking powder and salt. Now add in the olive oil, milk and egg and mix together until JUST incorporated. Add in the jalapeno, coriander and cheese and stir using a spatula. Pour into the baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Slice and serve!