Malabar Chicken Pilaf

What comes to mind when you think of the word "Malabar"? Scorching sun, sandy beaches, monsoon rains, lush green mountain slopes, house boats, the backwaters, isles of coconut trees, fresh coconut juice, milky coconut creme scooped out of coconut shells, Kerala..seafood...pilaf..this is a Malabar inspired Pilaf rich in coconut milk, and I bet it will remind of your cherished days by the Southern Coast.

What you need: Serves 4-6
6 chicken drumsticks
3 cups white or brown basmati rice
1 cup rich coconut milk 
6 cups boiling water
1 tsp Whole Garam masala (1/2 inch cinnamon, 2 cardamoms, 4 cloves, 1 bay leaf)
1 tsp somph (fennel seeds)
2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger and garlic or use ginger garlic paste
2 cups chopped onions
2 whole green chillies slit
1/4 cup lime juice
2 Tbsp olive oil or ghee/clarified butter 
Salt to taste
Boiling water - about 6 cups
A thick dish towel that is soaked in boiling water

To grind: 6 sticks of fresh cilantro, 15 small green hot chilies (Use more or less, as you choose), ½ tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp black pepper seeds, 1 tsp finely ginger and 1 tsp finely chopped garlic

To marinate: 2Tbsp yogurt, 1/2 tsp turmeric and salt to taste
First, marinate the raw chicken with the mentioned ingredients. Set aside overnight in the fridge or for a couple of hours. Soak the raw rice in cold water. Set aside for 20 minutes. If you are using brown rice, soak it for an hour.

Add oil into a large, hollow saucepan. Over medium-high heat, add the whole garam masala, and fennel seeds. After a minute add in the 2 slit green chillies and a cup of onions. Saute for another minute. Cover the pan to avoid the chili seeds from spluttering. Add the ground masala paste. Cook on medium for about 5-7 minutes.

Add the marinated chicken into this pan and let it cook on medium heat for about 7-10 minutes. Add in the cup of coconut milk and let the mixture bubble. Add salt and then pour in 5 cups of hot water (reduce the water by 1 cup if you like your pilaf flaky, or add 1/2 cup more if you like it soft and mushy) and bring to a boil. 

Drain the soaked rice and add it into the bubbling mixture slowly. Let it cook on medium-high for about 3 minutes until the mixture is into a rolling boil. Add in the lime juice, turn the heat to low for the next 12-15 minutes. 

Soak a dish towel in boiling water, drain and ring it carefully, watching not to burn your hands. Cover it over the top of the pan and then close the lid to seal in the pilaf. The damp towel helps making the pilaf moist, and uniformly cooked. 

Test to see if the rice is cooked. If it is watery, let it stay on low heat for a few more minutes. The chicken should peel easily, and the rice should be soft and greasy. Turn off the heat. 

In a a small saucepan, saute the remaining cup of chopped onions in a spoon of oil. Turn it off when its the edges of the onion are browned. Smear the top of the pilaf with 1tsp ghee and some more fresh lime juice if you like. Serve hot with browned onions, a slice of lime and some cool yogurt salad. Enjoy!