First, work on the rice. In the oil, fry the cumin seeds, sugar, onions, cardamom, cinnamon, peppercorns and cloves till fragrant.
Add the rice and saute well. Then add the water and salt and cook till done. The rice should be 3/4th cooked. Lay it out on a plate to cool down (this ensures that the grains don’t break when you mix in the prawns)
Grind together the spices in the ‘ground masala’ list and set aside.
In a pan, heat some oil (2 tbsp) and add the onions and tomatoes and saute for a while. Then add the ground masala and saute till the oil starts to leave the sides of the pan.
Add the turmeric powder, chilli powder, salt and prawns and saute well. Cover till the prawns are almost cooked.
Now in the serving vessel, place a layer of the rice (separate the grains as you sprinkle it in), then prawns, then rice, till it ends with the rice. Cover and steam (sprinkle a little water from the top) on medium heat till the rice blooms.
Serve warm garnished with chopped coriander leaves with a side salad or kachumber.
You may also add some fried onions (birista) in each layer to add a different level of flavour.