To wash or not to wash rice? In the case of basmati, no matter what, I always soak it. It cleans out any small particles and it also rids the rice of any starch on the grain. I do use the soaking water to cook the rice. This recipe is hypnotic and makes cooking such a simple ingredient easy. I leave the bay leaves and cinnamon in for rustic elegance. Remove them once cooked, if you want.
Prepare the rice: Soak the rice in 3 cups cold water for 30 minutes to remove the starch.
Cook the rice: Heat a medium saute pan over medium heat and add butter, onions, and 2 tablespoons water. Cook until translucent but not browned, 5 to 8 minutes. To the pan add cardamom seeds, cayenne, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves. Stir, and toast until fragrant, 2 minutes. Then, add the rice plus soaking liquid to the pot. Add salt to taste. Bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes. Cover, turn off the heat, and let steam for another 10 minutes. Fluff the rice gently with a fork and serve.