This is another of those things that I always thought were difficult to make. I found the hardest part of my initial attempt was getting it out of the tin! So be warned; don't think you'll save a few minutes by not lining your tin. Yes, even a non-stick tin! It is easier to make if you use a sugar/jam thermometer but is still possible to make without one. (I got mine from Lakeland and use it for making preserves as well). It makes almost a kilo of fudge so do make it to share. You have to buy cardamom seeds in little pods. Remove them from the pods and grind them with a pestle and mortar just after you've lined your tin to allow them to release their lovely sherberty flavour. If you don't fancy the sound of them just leave them out; the fudge will still be delicious.
700g golden granulated suger
400g tin sweetened condensed milk
110g salted butter (if you've only got unsalted, like me, then add a tiny pinch of salt)
half a teaspoon of ground cardamom seeds (optional)
1. Line a 20cm x 30cm non-stick tin with greaseproof paper leaving a couple of inches of the paper sticking above the top of the tin to act as handles. You can use a bigger tin but the fudge will be thinner. It does need to be a tin though as the fudge is extremely hot as it comes out of the pan!
2. Slowly heat the sugar in a heavy saucepan with the water, milk and butter till dissolved completely. Wash any sugar crystals from the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush. This is to stop the sugar forming crystals in the finished fudge, I think.
3. Raise the heat and boil the syrup. If you are using a sugar thermometer, boil the syrup to the softball stage (113 degrees C/235 degrees F). Without a thermometer, boil for about five minutes then drop a teaspoon of mixture into a jug of iced water. Allow it to cool for a few seconds; if the cooled mixture can be rolled into a soft ball then it is ready. If not then boil for another couple of minutes and try again. It took ten minutes with a thermometer the second time I made it but I did not have the pan on a very high heat; I think it took less the first time so that's why I suggest you check after five minutes if you are not using a thermometer.
4. As soon as the softball stage is reached, take the pan straight of the heat and dip the base in cold water. Let the syrup rest for a minute then stir in the cardamom, if using, with a wooden spoon.
5. Continue stirring until the syrup starts to grain and stiffen. Actually it will begin to stiffen first and when it does, pour it into the prepared tin straight away, which should be resting on a heatproof surface. You might need an extra pair of hands to hold the pan over while you scrape the mixture into your prepared tin. Once it cools it stiffens very quickly and you can end up with quite a bit left in the pan if you're not careful.
6. While warm, mark into squares with a sharp knife. Once the fudge is quite cold - I leave mine overnight - lift it out of the tin by its paper handles and cut into pieces. This prevents the grid pattern of scratches that I now have on my tin from not lining it the first time! Store in an airtight container, separated by greaseproof paper.