Soak saffron in 1/2 cup boiling water for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, saute onions until tender; set aside.
- Rinse the basmati under cold water in a sieve, until water runs clear and allow to drain.
Place the rice and the onions in a saucepan and add the 1/2 cup saffron water as well as 2 1/2 cups hot water, the cardamon pods, the cloves, and the salt and pepper; stir to mix. Bring to a boil over medium heat then reduce heat, cover, and cook over low heat until the rice is tender, about 15-20 minutes. If any liquid remains, drain it.
If desired, garnish with extra saffron.