Chicken Biryani

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6 onions, peeled

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 two-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

10 whole cloves

20 whole peppercorns

Seeds from 8 cardamom pods

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon whole poppy seeds

1/4 teaspoon ground mace

4 1/2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

8 ounces plain yogurt

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 bay leaves

4 large black cardamom pods (optional)

2 pounds skinless chicken legs and breasts, cut into large chunks

2 cups long-grain white rice

2 teaspoons saffron, soaked in 2 tablespoon hot milk

The Garnish

2 tablespoons golden raisins, fried in oil then drained

2 tablespoons blanched almonds

2 hard-cooked eggs, sliced or quartered (optional)

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