As most bean stews, it takes some time to prepare. But as these dishes get better the next day, it may be wise to prepare them in advance. I know for sure that this bean soup will be a regular dish in this house too.
Soak the dried black beans in 4 cups of water for at least 6 hours or overnight. Rinse and drain.
Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the black beans, 5 cups of water, bay leaves and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to boil, then simmer covered over medium heat for 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes or until beans are tender.
Heat olive oil in a big pan. Over medium heat stir in onions, sweet potato, carrots, celery and salt. Cook until vegetables are softened, about 10-15 minutes. Add spices and the garlic and keep stirring for 1 or 2 minutes.
Now combine the complete bean and bacon mixture to the vegetables. Add chicken/vegetable stock and bell pepper. Bring to boil, then simmer on low heat for another 20 minutes.
Remove about one third of the soup and blend it to a puree before adding it back to the soup. Serve hot with sour cream or yogurt and chopped herbs like parsley or coriander.