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Just don’t mention the raw! Steven Saunders makes ceviche of scallops

This week, celebrity chef Steven Saunders, of The Willow Tree in Bourn, makes us a classic South American dish and entertains Bourn village with a cookery demonstration - without actually cooking anything.

Ceviche of scallops. Picture: Steven Saunders
Ceviche of scallops. Picture: Steven Saunders

Ceviche (pronounced sir viche ay ) is a South American dish of raw fish marinated with lime, chillies and often onions and herbs like coriander. It is the most amazing dish for flavours and textures.

In January, my daughter Stef got married in Belize and on her wedding day menu (on the beach) was ceviche of scallops. It’s one of my favourite dishes.

Wherever we went in beautiful Belize, ceviche featured, even on the boat that we rented to take us scuba diving. Out it came like a national treasure. They looked so proud to serve it - we were so pleased to receive it.

Steven Saunders with his daughter on her wedding day (57856030)
Steven Saunders with his daughter on her wedding day (57856030)

We came back from diving exhausted but enchanted and as we sat on the beach and ate this dish, I was convinced it was my favourite thing ever. Why, then, it is not so popular here in the UK is a mystery, but it has something to do with it being raw.

Brits are not too keen on raw fish, it seems. But when something is marinated in lime juice and the natural salt, the acidity actually cooks the fish - especially if you leave it marinating for more than a few minutes.

The other day a client came up to me and congratulated me on the ceviche saying it was the best thing he had ever eaten. “How did you cook it?” he asked. “I didn’t,” I replied!

On the weekend of the Queen’s Jubilee I was asked if I could do a cookery demo in Bourn. It’s a funny story because they didn’t have any cooking facilities and asked me…what could I cook that did not involve cooking?

To be a chef, you also have to be a magician.

Ceviche immediately sprang to mind. On the day itself I arrived to set up to do the marquee. I planned to smoke the ceviche using a smoke gun. Smoking adds flavours, aromas and theatre (this is optional and I haven’t featured it in the recipe).

No one was in the marquee. I stood watching people peer in and then run away. The MC took to the microphone and tried hard to get people in. I asked if I could have the microphone and of course he said yes.

Steven Saunders at the Bourn Jubilee celebrations. Picture: Will Jackson
Steven Saunders at the Bourn Jubilee celebrations. Picture: Will Jackson

So I flipped into showtime mode and rallied people together along with a helper (Kelly, from the local shop) who was to be my assistant chef, with me advising her, so that my knowledge and her hands would produce the dish, allowing me to keep hold of the mike and entertain the audience. The marquee was now packed.

When we finished, people queued up to try it.

“Amazing,” they said. “What is the stuff on top?”

“Rhubarb,” I responded.

“Raw scallops and rhubarb?”

“Yes,” I replied. “Why? Do you think it is a bit eccentric?”

“You’re a bit eccentric,” the lady said, “but we love it!”

And that is how you fill an empty marquee. You have to be off the wall else you could be looking at three people watching you slice raw scallops.

“Why don’t you put this great dish on the menu?” one man asked.

“It is on the menu at The Willow Tree here in Bourn and I am going to do it with strawberries,” I replied. The combination of marinated fish and the sweet acidity of the strawberries really work well together.

It’s a fairly simple dish to make and one that people will adore - just don’t mention that the scallops are raw!


  • Email: thechefsaunders@gmail.com
  • Visit thewillowtreebourn.com
  • Visit: theodessaproject.com
  • Instagram: @saunderschef / @thewillowtreebourn

[Read more: Steven Saunders cooks surf and turf - and talks princesses]

Recipe: Ceviche of Scallops with Summer Strawberries

Ingredients for 4

  • 8 large fresh scallops
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped
  • 1 small red onion finely chopped
  • ¼ cucumber finely chopped
  • 2 spring onions finely chopped
  • 1 lime (juice & zest)
  • 1 red chilli deseeded and chopped finely
  • 1 small bunch of coriander
  • 50ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 largeish strawberries chopped finely.
  • ½ teaspoon of Maldon salt to season


  • Slice the scallops into thin slices and set aside.
  • To make the ceviche dressing, chop and deseed the tomato, chop the onion, cucumber and chilli very finely and mix well together.
  • Grate and zest the lime and add to the dressing
  • Chop the spring onions finely, grate the garlic and chop the coriander and mix with the rest of the ingredients for the dressing. Finally add the olive oil and the salt.
  • Add the sliced scallops and leave to marinate for 3-5 mins. If you want the texture of scallops to be more cooked leave in the marinade for longer.
  • Finally serve with the chopped strawberries on top and serve in the scallop shell. We often serve some cooked prawns marinated in the same marinade underneath to give it more texture but either way this dish is delicious, especially excellent when the weather is so hot.

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