Basmati Rice with Saffron and Whole Spices
Place the rice in medium-sized bowl. Fill bowl halfway with tap water to cover rice. Gently rub slender grains through fingers without breaking them to wash off any dust or light foreign objects (like loose husks) that will float to the surface. Drain water. Repeat 3 to 4 times until the water, after rinsing, is relatively clear; drain. Now fill bowl halfway with cold water and let sit at room temperature, to soften kernels, 20 to 30 minutes; drain.
In medium saucepan, heat canola oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in cumin, cardamom, bay leaves, and cinnamon. Allow them to sizzle, swell up (especially the cardamom pods), and smell aromatic, 15 to 30 seconds. Immediately add onion and stir-fry until slices are light brown around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes.
Stir in saffron. The heat from the ingredients in the pan allows the world’s most expensive spice to unleash gently its full-perfumed potential. Add drained rice and coat grains with orange-tinted onion by tossing gently together. Pour in water and add salt. Stir rice once to incorporate ingredients. Allow water to boil over the same medium-high heat. Once water has evaporated from the surface and craters start to appear in orange red-hued yellow rice, only then stir once to bring partially cooked layer from bottom of pan to surface. Place tight-fitting lid and lower heat to lowest possible setting. Let steam build up and continue to cook kernels 8 to 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let pan stand on burner undisturbed for additional 10 minutes.
Remove lid and fluff rice with fork to let steam escape.
Tips: Either remove the cardamom, bay leaves, and cinnamon before you serve the rice. The pods especially are very strong-tasting if bit into, and might leave an unpleasant bitterness that masks future mouthfuls from being anything but pleasant.
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