Step 1Wash the rice and combine it with the milk in a heavy-bottomed pan. Place the cardamom pods on a piece of cheesecloth and tie the ends of the cloth tightly together, fashioning a pouch. Toss the pouch into the milk. Bring the milk almost to a boil. Decrease the heat to medium-low and allow the milk to bubble--but not bubble over--stirring occasionally, until half the quantity remains, about 2 hours. (Don't be alarmed if cream forms a crust at the top--simply stir it into the milk.) Turn off the heat.
Step 2Remove the cardamom pouch and discard. Add the sugar, almonds, coconut and raisins, if using, to the milk. Mix well. Allow to cool, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Pour the mixture into a serving bowl. Sprinkle the cardamom on top, cover and refrigerate 2 hours. Serve chilled.