Pour 1 tablespoon oil into a 10- to 12-inch pan over medium heat. Add cashews, cardamom, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and cumin seeds; stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Pour into a bowl.
In pan, heat remaining tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic; stir until limp, 5 to 8 minutes.
Stir in shrimp, chili powder, turmeric, pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and nut-spice mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, just until shrimp begin to turn pink, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; stir in yogurt. Cook, stirring often, until most liquid has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Remove bay leaves and cinnamon stick.
Meanwhile, in a 5- to 6-quart pan over high heat, bring 2 1/2 quarts water to a boil. Add rice; boil uncovered until almost tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Drain and pour into a bowl. Stir in the lemon juice and salt to taste.
In a buttered 3 1/2-quart baking dish, spread about 1/3 of rice mixture level. Top with 1/2 shrimp mixture, spreading level. Repeat layers, ending with rice. Sprinkle evenly with saffron threads. Cover tightly with foil.
Bake biryani in a 350° oven until center is hot and rice is tender to bite, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately, with raita.
This was so good! We made one substitution (coconut milk for the yogurt, as we were out of yogurt), but it was still delicious. It also is a little labor-intensive, and dirties a lot of pans, but it's worth it! Finally, we only made a 1/2 recipe, because it was just the two of us--our 5 yr old daughter wouldn't touch it because of the shrimp. We should have made the whole recipe, because we ended up fighting over the last helpings :) Thanks for sharing this yummy recipe!
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