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Our 10 most forgotten spices on the rack

The British are getting more adventurous. No more cottage pie on Monday, chops on Tuesday, fish on Friday. We’re now more likely to have nam pla sauce than brown. However; there is one area of our culinary endeavours in which we let ourselves down sadly. Now this is going to be painful, but let’s take a little look in your spice rack…

No, it’s no good standing in front of it defensively, we can still see. Aha! You have...

Labels are useful to find out the best before date. For all you know, these jars might have been purchased last millennium.

1. Some brown dust

Excellent. This was once either ground coriander or cumin. You can’t remember now, as the label’s ripped, which is convenient as the use by date was probably 1997. Let us assure you that this is now entirely useless. You couldn’t even use it even if the recipe called for brown dust. Bin. Now.

It's advisable to keep your spices in an airtight container, really.

2. A drum of ground ginger

This was an error in quantity owing to having had a glass of wine when you did your online supermarket shop. It also explains the 13 grapefruit and the catering tin of evaporated milk.

3. 12 jars of either cloves or nutmeg

Something Christmassy, that you only ever needed one of. But every December you have a little panic that you won’t have any, so you add it to the list. You will be found eventually, like a hoarder, having to be airlifted from your own home as you’re trapped behind a rising tide of nutmeg. Your photograph will appear in your local newspaper under a sarcastic headline about a Christmas pudding.

4. Some gelatine

Why is that there? It’s not a spice. However you do have enough of it to turn the English Channel into a wobbly bridge, should the need arise.

5. Some star anise

Now this one was bought with every intention of making Chinese slow roast pork. Like from the Chinese takeaway, only more worthy because you have made it yourself. Except you didn’t when you read the recipe properly, realised it took seven hours to cook and by the time you’d remembered that, acknowledged that 3am on Monday morning wasn’t the best time to be eating Sunday dinner.

6. A jar of small brown balls

No-one knows what these are and you will never find out either, as they have welded themselves to the shelf of the rack owing to The Great Soy Sauce Leak of 2015. The only way to find out would be to demolish your kitchen.

It's always worth keeping an eye on the colour of your spices. Ask yourself: should it be that brown?

7. Garam masala

This turns all food khaki, thus rendering it in your eyes “authentic”. When you’re trying to hurry-cheat through a curry and it says “dry fry the seventeen different spices and then crush them” you just chuck a bit of this in and voila! Some khaki chicken. Yum.

Every festive season you have a little panic and buy another jar of cloves.

8. Dried chilies

You haven’t dared open these for months as you are still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from when you chopped one then adjusted your contact lens without washing your hands.

9. Black peppercorn refill box

These are like the genie in the bottle. Once you’ve released them they go absolutely everywhere, except in the pepper mill, and you never see them again until you stand on one with bare feet.

10. Cinnamon sticks

These were last used for what you laughingly referred to as mulled wine. It was actually a sort of hot sangria that had everything in it including a tablespoon of brown dust (see above). You hoped it would remind everyone of skiing. It actually reminded everyone of hot cough medicine.

Now, how many of those ring a bell? If it was over five then you need to overhaul your spice rack pronto.

Chefs that use spices properly buy a small amount fresh, and replace them when needed.

Unsteady as the world may look at the moment, the one thing we can count on is cloves-rationing being extremely unlikely.