1. Combine the first 7 ingredients in a large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a simmer. Although a little time consuming please take the time to buy the cardamom pods and grind yourself as this will make all the difference to the end result.
2. Add the pears and return the mixture and bring back to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer slowly until pears are tender when pierced with a knife, about 25 minutes. Transfer pears to a plate. Boil the liquid in the saucepan reduced by one-third of the original quantity, approximately 20 minutes. Pass the liquor through a fine sieve. (Can be made 1-2 days ahead.) Cover and chill pears in the poaching liquid.
3. Combine the mascarpone with the icing sugar and vanilla bean paste. Before serving, warm the pears and poaching liquor over medium-low heat until warmed through.