They were very handy crofthouse implements in the days when a kitchen would have a peat-fired Rayburn stove and a single gas ring – you could get the thing up to steam on the gas and then leave it pressurised on the top of the stove. I have a feeling this also appealed to a certain generation of former merchant seamen who enjoyed the technical similarities with a coal-fired ship’s boiler.
Nowadays, while direct-heat pressure cookers are readily available, the microprocessor-controlled Instant Pot and its copies have taken over. Basically a kind of user-friendly, non-threatening electric pressure cooker, it comes with pre-sets for things like stews and soups, and is thus perfect for the two Shetland winter warmers I am going to describe here. As long as there’s not a power cut.
Versions (non-pressurised) of both these recipes can be found in the book I wrote with my son James, Shetland: Cooking on the Edge of the World, though they have been modified slightly to make them simpler and more amenable to pressurised cooking. Basically, you want an Instant Pot (which is, like ‘Portakabin’, a registered trademark) or one of the many, nearly as good, and much cheaper copies. It will have a setting for stew and one for soup. Use them. I promise, there will be no explosions. Or there shouldn’t be.