Cantwell Family Sunday Dinner

A hearty meal, ideal for an autumn or winter evening

Cantwell Family Sunday Dinner

Origin: Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site
Region: Atlantic (Newfoundland and Labrador)
Period: 20th Century - present
Course: Main Course

Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site
© Parks Canada

Since 1836, Cape Spear Lighthouse has been an important aid to navigation for ships sailing along the eastern coast of Newfoundland. For much of its history, a single family, the Cantwells, was involved in tending the light. Gerry Cantwell grew up at Cape Spear and was the last member of the Cantwell family to tend the light before it was automated. This recipe is one that Gerry remembers his mother cooking during his youth. “I don’t have any cooking times associated with anything that Mother would prepare. She seemed to sense when a dish was done. Until 1969, she would cook the meat, pies, cakes, cookies, and, of course, the homemade bread, exclusively in the cast-iron Nafco Special wood and coal stove oven. Not one of we six children can remember anything ever being under-or over-cooked. I don’t know to this day how she could do it in a very hot cast iron oven with no timing mechanisms or mechanical ways to regulate the temperatures.”

Cantwell Family Sunday Dinner


  • 2 lbs | 1 kg cured naval beef (salt beef) or corned beef
  • 2 lbs | 1kg leg roast of pork (bone in, skin on) or pork loin roast (bone out, fat cap on)
  • 6 potatoes
  • 6 carrots
  • 6 small white turnip
  • 6 parsnip
  • 1 cabbage 500g to 1kg -1 to 2 lbs
  • 1 lb | 500 g yellow split peas, soaked in water overnight
  • 2 tbsp | 30 ml flour
  • 2 tbsp | 30 ml butter or margarine
  • beef or chicken stock - enough to cover the beef and allow for vegetables to be added
  • salt and pepper


  • Vegetables and Beef:
    • Soak salt beef overnight in cold water in a large pot (not required if using corned beef). In the morning, change the water and put the pot on medium heat. (If using corned beef, place in the pot and cover with stock and cook till tender.) Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to medium.
    • Drain and rinse the split peas and put in a cotton bag. Tie the bag loosely leaving room for the peas to expand and suspend in the pot with the salt beef. Simmer for about 90 minutes. Alternatively, you can cook them separately in a pot with a small amount of mirepoix − diced carrot, onion and celery, about 3½ oz (100 g) of each. Once cooked, mash and add seasoning and butter.
    • Peel the turnip and cut into wedges; peel the carrots and parsnips and cut in half. Peel and wash the potatoes and add to pot along with the turnip, carrots and parsnips. Boil for about 20-30 minutes, until tender. Cut the cabbage into wedges leaving the stump in place to hold the wedges together. Add to pot, cover and continue to boil for another 15 minutes.
  • Roast pork:
    • Score the fat cap of the pork roast. Do not cut through the fat to the flesh. Rub salt and pepper into the score lines. Place in a covered roaster and roast at 325°F (165°C), 20-25 minutes per pound (500 g). About 35-40 minutes before service remove cover from the roaster to allow the skin to crisp. Time the roast to be ready 10 minutes ahead of the pot of vegetables. When ready, drain the juices from roast into a saucepan and allow the roast to rest.
  • Gravy:
    • Heat the juices from roast over medium heat and deglaze − scraping the bottom of roasting pan to release the meat scraps and add stock or water, enough to obtain 2 cups of liquid.
    • In a cup or jar put 2-3 tbsp of flour and slowly mix in cold water to make a thin paste. Gradually add the flour mix into the saucepan, stirring continuously as the gravy thickens to avoid lumps. Strain before serving. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  • Final assembly:
    • Remove pea pudding bag from pot. Untie top and turn out into bowl. Add butter and a little pepper and whisk with fork until smooth. Fish all the vegetables and beef from the pot with a slotted spoon and arrange on a platter or in serving bowls. Slice pork roast and arrange on platter. Pour gravy into gravy boat and serve all hot.
  • How to make a pudding bag:
    • Take a piece of muslin fabric approximately 10 inches by 6 inches. Fold it in half and sew across one end and up the side opposite the fold. Turn inside out. Use kitchen or butcher twine to tie open end.


Recipe tested by Chef Sean Edwards, Algonquin College School of Hospitality and Tourism

Adapted from a recipe by Gerry Cantwell who grew up at Cape Spear and was the last member of the Cantwell family to tend the light.