Spiced Poached Pears

4 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 star anise
2-3" sticks cinnamon
2 pods cardamon, crushed
3 slices ginger
1/2 pod vanilla, split
6 firm ripe pears

Combine water, sugar, star anise, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla pod in a large pot and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer until sugar dissolves and mixture is fragrant.
Meanwhile, peel pears leaving stems intact.
Using a small melon baller, scoop out part of the core and seeds from the wide end of the pears.
Place pears in the syrup and simmer very gently until tender or until a small paring knife can be inserted without pressure.
Cool, then refrigerate the pears in the syrup for a few days so flavours can blend.

Makes 6 servings

Any combination of spices can be used.
For a different flavour, substitute some of the water with a fruity white or red wine or some liqueur.
The leftover syrup makes a delightful beverage when combine with some sparkling water or boiling water.