Black Butterfly: Irish Beef and Guinness Stew Recipe

Year Released: 2017
Directed by: Brian Goodman 
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
(R, 93 min.)
Mystery and Suspense, Drama

“You still don’t get it, do you, Paul? I’m the one writing the story.”  Jack

The ingredients are familiar – clichéd even.  A has been writer lost in an alcoholic haze, a house in the middle of nowhere, a shifty hitchhiker who worms his way inside, and a serial killer on the loose.  It’s a slow boil, but the final stew is anything but expected. Or maybe not…

Black Butterfly is a little like Spike Lee’s 2006 Inside Man, psychological warfare where what seems and what is are entirely different things.

What keeps us involved is Antonio’s Banderas’ character, Paul, lost in writer’s block trying to create the screenplay that will save him from financial ruin.  Paul is not the dashing nobleman Banderas played in 1998’s The Mask of Zorro, but a man worn down by the painful fall from early success – perhaps not unlike the actor himself, now reduced to animated voiceovers and roles with 80s action heroes (The Expendables 3).  His face is puffy and mostly unshaven, his eyes a bit glazed, the athlete’s body sturdy, but without its youthful grace.

Between his Spanish accent and his slightly slurred speech, we cannot understand all that Paul says, but the charm is still there.  A fragile glimmer in eyes that have not quite given up.  The verbal wit is diminished, but a surviving cunning animates.

Jack (Jonathan Rhys Myers) is the wily drifter who earns Paul’s gratitude when he stops an angry driver from attacking Paul over a road rage incident.  An offered lift becomes a stay overnight when a sudden storm develops, and before long Jack determines to make himself welcome for a longer time.  He cleans the filthy kitchen and shows himself a talented cook as well.  But when he invents jobs to extend his stay, Paul begins to be suspicious. He is, after all, about to sell the house since he can no longer afford it.

News warnings about a killer on the loose, Jack’s black butterfly prison tattoo, and his paranoia about strangers coming to the door all bode poorly, but he does force Paul to smash his whisky bottles and chides him into writing a screenplay – the story of the two of them, he suggests.  There seems more at work here than a killer on the lamb.

And yes, there is more, much more, as the action escalates and the cat and mouse game becomes more deadly. The story flips on itself and then flips again.

Is it clever or too clever by half, like 2011’s The Perfect Host, which also strives for a David Mamet cross/double cross complexity? Just when you are ready to abandon it as contrived or predictable, Black Butterfly pulls the rug out from under and gets your attention again.

Fresh or merely a reworked cliché?  You decide. (Availble on Netflix streaming, Amazon, and You Tube.)

–Kathy Borich


Film-Loving Foodie

His drifter/guest Jack impresses screenwriter Paul with his cooking.  One favorite is the stew he makes.  Given that Jack is played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who was born in Dublin, it seems fitting to make ours an Irish Stew. 

This delicious recipe for Beef and Guinness Stew is sure to warm you on a cold autumn night.

Beef and Guinness Stew

The great Irish Beef and Guinness Stew is easy to make but requires patience while it slow cooks! The Guinness Beer is the secret weapon ingredient in this, creating a sauce that has wonderful deep complex flavours. This is great made on the day but even better the day after!


2 tbsp olive oil

2.5 lb / 1.25 kg beef chuck ,brisket or any other slow cooking beef (no bone)

3/4 tsp salt

Black pepper

3 garlic cloves , minced

2 onions , chopped (brown, white or yellow)

6 oz / 180g bacon , speck or pancetta, diced

3 tbsp plain flour

1 x 440ml / 14.9oz can Guinness Beer (Note 1)

4 tbsp tomato paste

3 cups / 750 ml chicken stock/broth (or beef broth - Note 4)

3 carrots , peeled and cut into 1.25 cm / 1/2" thick pieces

2 large celery stalks , cut into 2cm / 1" pieces

2 bay leaves

3 sprigs thyme (or sub with 1 tsp dried thyme leaves)


Cut the beef into 5cm/2" chunks. Pat dry then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a heavy based pot over high heat. Add beef in batches and brown well all over. Remove onto plate. Repeat with remaining beef.

Remove pot from heat to cool slightly and lower heat to medium. If the pot is looking dry, add oil.

Return pot to heat, add garlic and onion. Cook for 3 minutes until softening, then add bacon.

Cook until bacon is browned then add flour. Stir flour into the mixture.

Add Guinness. Mix well (to ensure flour dissolves well) then add remaining ingredients and return beef into the pot (including any juices).

Add enough water so the beef & veggies are almost fully covered - see photo in post.

Cover, bring to simmer then lower heat so it is bubbling gently. Cook for 2 hours - the beef should be pretty tender by now. Remove lid then simmer for a further 30 - 45 minutes or until the beef falls apart at a touch and the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly.

Skim off fat on surface. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Remove bay leaves and thyme.

Serve with creamy mashed potatoes!!