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Biryani Rice with Lamb

2 cups basmati rice
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
2 tablespoons boiling water, for saffron
1/4 cup butter
2 onions, chopped
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon cumin, ground
1 tablespoon coriander seed, ground
1 teaspoon cardamom seed, crushed
1 teaspoon peppercorns, coarsely ground
1 stick cinnamon
1 pound lamb, cut in 1" cubes
4 ounces dried apricot halves, cut crosswise
4 ounces raisins
2 ounces cashews, slit in half
2 ounces slivered almonds
2 bay leaves
3 teaspoons salt
2 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 ounces pistachio nuts

Rinse basmati rice well, soak it in cold water for 30 minutes and
drain. Place saffron threads into two tablespoons of boiling water
and allow to soak for 10 minutes.

Melt butter in a large, heavy skillet. Add onions, ginger and
garlic. Saute, stirring constantly for 5 minutes, or until onions
are soft and translucent but not brown. Add cumin, coriander,
cardamom, peppercorns, and cinnamon stick. Saute, stirring constantly
for about 2 minutes.

Dry lamb cubes with paper towels and add to the spice mixture,
taking care not to splatter. Saute for about 10 minutes, or until
they are seared and brown.

Add apricots, raisins, cashews, half the almonds, bay leaves, and
1 tsp. salt. Pour into chicken stock, cover pan, and simmer until
lamb is tender, about 35 to 40 minutes. Taste the mixture and add
more salt if necessary. Remove pan from heat. Remove and discard
cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Set aside and keep warm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large saucepan, bring 3 pints
of water to boil over high heat. Add remaining salt and rice, and
boil for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and drain rice in
a colander.

Pour 1 tablespoon of melted butter into a large, ovenproof casserole
dish. Put one-third of the rice in the bottom. Sprinkle with
one-third of the saffron water. With a slotted spoon, transfer
half of the meat and fruit mixture to the casserole dish. Add
another third of the rice and saffron water. Add the remaining
meat and fruit mixture, reserving the pan juices. Finish with a
last layer of the rice sprinkled with the remaining saffron water.
Pour the reserved pan juices over all. Sprinkle with pistachios,
remaining almonds, and remaining melted butter.

Cover casserole dish and bake until the rice has absorbed all the
liquid--approximately one half hour. Remove from oven and serve
immediately.

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