2-3 heads of garlic, minced (twice as much as ginger)
3 bunches cilantro, chopped with stems and leaves
1 1/2T indian chili powder
3T garam masala
1t fennel seeds (1/2t + 1/2t)
5 star anise
2 large red or white onions, sliced
1/2c vegetable oil
4-5 small green Thai chilis (or equivalent green chili pepper), slit once lengthwise
6 roma tomatoes (4 diced and 2 sliced )
5 cups uncooked long-grain basmati rice
1/2 oz fresh mint leaves, chopped (large stems discarded)
2 2" sticks of cinnamon
7-8 green cardamom pods
2 mace (nutmeg casing)
1/2c golden raisins
red/orange food coloring powder (optional)
Trim the lamb and cut into 1" to 2" chunks (large dice). Wash the lamb in one bowl of water to another until, replacing the water each time. Repeat 4-6 times until the water is no longer cloudy.
Next, prepare the marinade. Place the lamb in a large bowl. Add yogurt, ginger, garlic, 1 bunch cilantro, 1/2T salt, turmeric, coriander powder, and chili powder. With a spice or coffee grinder, grind in 1/2t fennel and 2 star anise into the garam masala. Mix everything until it coats the lamb.
Let marinade for 10-12 hours overnight.
Fry 2 onions. In a large pot, heat 1/2c to 3/4c oil on medium heat. Add the sliced onions and let sit for a very long time, stirring occasionally. This will take time and likely stink up the house (close the bedroom doors!).
When the onions are browned and crisped, add the lamb and marinade. In addition, add the chilis and diced tomatoes. Stir until everything is coated in oil and turn the burner to medium-high heat. Cover the pot.
Every 7 minutes or so, stir everything. Don't stir too often or too much moisture will evaporate from the mixture. Continue until the lamb is cooked to at least 145 degrees. Alternatively, poke a large lamb chunk with a wooden spoon. If you are able to break a piece off, it is cooked. Continue to cook another 15-20 minutes after the lamb is cooked until the water has evaporated and the oil begins to separate on the edges of the pot. Taste the mixture and add salt, as needed.
Rinse the rice 4-5 times between two large bowls until the water no longer becomes cloudy. Soak the rice in water, covered for 20-30 minutes.
Combine 2 bunches cilantro with mint in a small bowl.
Next, assemble the layers of biryani. Place the meat mixture in a large casserole dish. Alternately, use two 13x9 casserole dishes. Spread to create an even layer.
Layer the mixed herbs evenly in a layer.
Layer with sliced tomatoes. Squeeze the juice from 1/2 of the lemon evenly over the layer.
Boil the rice in a large stockpot with lots of water. To the water, add 3 star anise, 1/2t fennel seeds, the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and mace. Once the water reaches a boil, add salt, and then the rice. Boil for 8-12min, depending on the type of rice. The rice is complete when you can smash it between your fingers. It should not feel grainy; the rice should be just cooked through.
With a hand strainer, transfer the rice to the casserole dish(es), draining while making an even layer. Squeeze the juice of the other lemon half over the rice layer.
In a separate fry pan, fry the cashews and raisins in oil for 3-4 minutes. The mixture should be fragrant and the raisins should puff up. Once complete, sprinkle on top of the casserole dish(es).
Top the biryani with the fried onions and ghee.
(Optional) Add red/orange food coloring powder to the top of the dish.
Cover the casserole dish with parchment paper and then with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes, then lower the temperature to 325 and bake for 10 minutes.